KARNATAKA

Landslips, a sign of the fragile ecosystem of Chamundi Hills

PUSHED TO THE LIMIT: Chamundi Hills in Mysore is under severe stress with a number of concrete structures coming up around it. — PHOTO: M.A. SRIRAM

PUSHED TO THE LIMIT: Chamundi Hills in Mysore is under severe stress with a number of concrete structures coming up around it. — PHOTO: M.A. SRIRAM  

Ropeway project mooted by the Tourism Department will put additional stress on the area Ropeway project mooted by Tourism Department will increase stress on the area

Special Correspondent

MYSORE: The recent landslips atop Chamundi Hills is a pointer to its fragility and makes it imperative to create a buffer zone around it to prevent further encroachment, resulting in denudation of forest land and soil erosion.

The landslips also raise questions about the feasibility of the proposed ropeway project that will put tremendous stress on the Chamundi Hills, which is already wilting under the pressure of development.

Though heavy rain is the immediate cause of the recent landslips, environmentalists have pointed out that denudation of the green cover and resultant soil erosion reduces the capacity of the soil to hold water and results in massive run offs.

Juxtapose this with the proliferation of residential areas and encroachments around Chamundi Hills, with many new buildings embedded in the hills and constructed with scant regard to conservation norms, and it becomes clear that Chamundi Hills and its ecosystem is in grave danger.

As an ecological entity it is unique to Mysore and part of its cultural fabric. It is also an economic resource and a watershed that can meet 25 per cent of the city's water requirements. Chamundi Hills is also ecologically rich and harbours a wide variety of flora and fauna and acts as a "carbon sink" for the city.

However, environmentalists have documented the changes taking place around Chamundi Hills and said that they do not augur well for its future. The foothills have been largely used up and eroded, and is creating a situation that hastens land erosion.

The Mysore Urban Development Authority (MUDA) has plans to create new residential areas in Lalitadripura, which will hasten urbanisation around Chamundi Hills and abet the latter's degradation. But it is the recent proposal by the Tourism Department to construct a ropeway linking Chamundi Hills with the foothills that is expected to ring the death-knell.

The ropeway project will require large tracts of forest land to be cleared. Eminent citizens and litterateurs from the city have pleaded against the project. They came together under the banner of the Association of Concerned and Informed Citizens of Mysore and cautioned against the project as it will eat away the vital green cover provided by Chamundi Hills.

Apart from clearing a two-km stretch of forest land, the project will also entail construction of pillars for the cableway at every 50 metres that will necessitate clearance of forests for creating access paths for construction. In addition, the project will require large plots of land at the foothills and atop the hill for installing machinery and standby generators.

It has been suggested that Chamundi Hills and its environment be protected by creating a buffer zone, and the authorities freeze all construction and development works within a radius of 500 metres around it. This will prevent further encroachment and denudation.

Environmentalists have suggested that at least 300 metres around the hills should be declared a Core Conservation Area and used only for forestry and conservation, while the remaining 200 metres should be declared a Peripheral Conservation Area with emphasis on horticulture and agriculture.

Chamundi Hills and its surroundings also act as a vast lung space and should be conserved at all costs, according to a section of citizens.

The Government had notified more than 5000 hectares under the Nehru Loka Project that prevented the development of land around the hills.

However, it later de-notified the land and lifted the restrictions on the land use pattern.

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