By P.T. Bopanna
Residents of Kodagu (Coorg) district in Karnataka have not taken kindly to a proposal by the Dabur group to convert a coffee estate into a school campus in an ecologically sensitive zone.
The World Environment School is being planned at Hoskeri village in Madikeri taluk. According to reports, the plan is to build a residential school with facilities for multiple playing fields, swimming pool by converting an existing coffee estate located on a small hillock.
Reports said the Dabur group had sought permission from the district administration to construct a residential school at the site in the past. But, following the concerns raised by the villagers about the destruction of the forest, permission was denied for the same.
A few months ago, villagers of Hoskeri were shaken up by work on a quarry on the land (in picture) where the school was planned. As the area is situated in an elevated position, there was an impending threat of cave-ins, during the monsoon, the residents said.
In a Facebook post, Sandhya Achaya, a resident of Kodagu said: “There is no dearth of barren land to plan the ‘environment school’ and set an example. Why the fragile landscape in Kodagu (Coorg) district of Karnataka. The Geological Survey of India, report on the specific site has stated in clear terms, the slope in the landscape is ‘unsafe’ for a project of such a magnitude.”
Another resident, Dev Uthaiah stated: “The very essence of what you are claiming to give to your students and their parents by selling the idea of sustainability, embracing nature and conserving it, is hypocritical, because the construction of this very school is putting the already fragile eco system around the area at great risk.”
The fears of the residents of Kodagu are justified because the district located on the slopes of Western Ghats has seen back-to-back landslides in the last three years, causing death and devastation.
Last year, the priest of the Talacauvery temple and his family were buried alive following a landslide. This year, already several landslides have been reported in Kodagu. Even the office of the deputy commissioner located on a hillock at Madikeri is in danger. A retaining wall is being built at a cost of around Rs 5 crore to protect the building.
The Dabur group which has a rich legacy, should stay away from ventures that endanger the safety of people living in Kodagu.
Mr P T Bopanna is a journalist who I thought holds Kodagu and its Environment very dear to his heart. I diligently follow his articles on Kodagu. But unfortunately I find that this article of his is completely at variance with facts on ground.
The photo shown in the article belongs to a neighbouring site.
Dabur is in no way involved with the Project, this has been time and again informed to the people opposing the project in multiple forums publicly. It is a Not-for-Profit NGO named Mobius Foundation which plans to execute the Project if relevant governmental permissions are granted.
Only construction happening on ground is for a farm house which is located on one corner of the property on a rock face. The fact is only the column footings are located for which only the barest minimum levelling has been undertaken.
The facebook post of Ms Sandhya Achaya is part of the blatant effort to spread misinformation by misrepresenting facts. GSI has not given any such report regarding the project as mentioned in her post. In fact as per GSI preliminary report after 2018 landslides, the Project area comes under the least landslide prone zone. Also the GSI has submitted a World Environment School Project specific report to the Land Committee under the DC which is supportive of the Project.
An Environmental School of the sort envisioned will do more to the Environmental Cause that we in Kodagu hold so dear to our hearts.
Dear Mr. P T Bopanna,
Thank you so much for your kind thoughts and standing tall with the concerned villagers of Hoskeri, Kodagu.
I have lived in that village and have seen the borewells in that belt being aboslutely dry with no water. If an environmental school of 1000 residents with swimming pools etc come in there, the ground water will be further sucked away by the powerful machines of this massive development and the villagers and trees , living there for years now , need to bear the brunt with no water for agriculture or for household.
secondly, The horrific Landslides that we have been witnessing in coorg the last few years are also the cause of concern for everyone around the site ,as massive constructions disturb the natural terrain to great extent. We really dont want to see another disaster like in the past in other parts of coorg.
Not to mention about the tiny roads in this village where even a cement mixer truck outside this construction site recently, completely blocked the road and left few villagers stranded on the road in their automobiles for hours. This can only worsen with the influx of people, as no way these roads can be widened.