EnvironmentFlora and FaunaWildlife



Once again, ancient trees of Kodagu district in Karnataka are on the hit list. Ironically, Karnataka government’s Rs 130-crore-project is for building a retaining wall to prevent soil erosion and landslides.

Unfortunately, Kodagu has seen felling of lakhs of trees under the guise of linear structure development in the past three decades. In the aftermath of this, Kodagu, the land of Cauvery has witnessed unprecedented floods, droughts and frequent landslides. The diversion of paddy lands for apartment construction, destruction of wildlife corridors, rising human-wildlife conflict too has aggravated the situation.

Instead of addressing these problems, elected representatives are busy in achieving short term goals thereby, diverting large tracts of forest lands in Kodagu which has led to severe shrinkage of forest streams and tributaries.

Local authorities in the Hattiholey region aim to construct a retaining wall albeit to protect riverbanks from landslides and erosion.

As per details available, more than 100 trees and many more have been marked for chopping along the banks of rivers and streams including Kote Abbi, Hatteholey Stream. These ancient trees have been marked by the Cauvery Neeravari Nigam for chopping. The project will also include constructing check dams and undertaking other remedial measures to protect the banks of the rivers.

Appealing to the Chief Conservator of Forests, Kodagu region, activists, environmentalists and local people have called for a rethink on this project as Kodagu is the birthplace of the mighty Cauvery River. They said, “Re-assess the scientific basis of the decision to cut scores of trees to build a retaining wall to prevent landslides and erosion. Instead of chopping the trees, let them consider the removal of excess silt deposits in the waterways.”

They add, “We advocate for the preservation and encouragement of riparian zones. Riparian vegetation, comprising trees, shrubs, and other plants adapted to wet conditions, plays a crucial role in preventing erosion, filtering pollutants, and providing habitat for diverse species found in the Western Ghats.”

However, this project is still to get permission from the forest department. If granted, these ancient trees will be lost forever, activists add. “Ironic, isn’t it? Trees are meant to protect the soil from erosion. If anything, they act as natural barriers to landslides. We’re urging the Conservator and Deputy Conservator of Forests to encourage the local authority in Kodagu to scientifically assess the issue of landslides and removal of excess silt deposits in the waterways.”

Trees have extensive root systems that bind soil particles together, providing stability to the ground. The roots help in anchoring the soil and preventing erosion. They also play a crucial role in binding sediment particles. Roots of the trees absorb water from the soil, reducing excess moisture that can contribute to landslides. 

The presence of trees on riverbanks acts as a form of natural reinforcement for slopes. Further, they prevent the erosion of fertile soil found on river banks and also prevent pollutants from entering the river waters. Trees attract moisture laden clouds to precipitate and as trees are felled, rains too fail in that particular area.

The ecosystem created by trees contributes to overall biodiversity, fostering the growth of various plant and animal species. In this background, there is an urgent need for citizens to save these magnificent and ancient trees and take an active part in conservation and not just leave this campaign to activists.

Join the campaign by Jhatkaa.org, who are urging the Chief Conservator of Forests, Kodagu to encourage the local authority in this district to scientifically assess the issue of landslides and instead of choosing to chop the trees, push for alternatives.

Concerned by the deteriorating ecological distress in the district, activists say the need of the hour is to enhance riparian zones and take up removal of excess silt deposits in the waterways of Kodagu district which is the birthplace of River Cauvery and nourishes the two big states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.