By P.T. Bopanna
The Congress government in Karnataka headed by chief minister Siddaramaiah is engaged in a diabolical game plan to remove the ‘deemed forest’ tag from devarakadus (sacred groves) in Kodagu (Coorg) district to enable the Kerala timber mafia to loot the sacred forests.
The Kodava community believes that Devarakadus as the abode of Gods where felling of trees is prohibited. Every village has a devarakadu and these groves are an important storehouse of biodiversity.
Revenue minister Kagodu Thimmappa (in picture) said in Mangaluru on Thursday that the state government intends to bring an amendment to the Deemed Forest Act to exclude privilege lands, including devarakadu and Jamma bane land in Kodagu.
Thimmappa revealed that the proposal for amendment had been approved by a Cabinet sub-committee. Though these lands come under the Revenue Department as per Section 79(2), they were later included in the Deemed Forest Act, he added.
According to an estimate, Kodagu district has 1,214 devarakadus spread in 2,550 hectare land. Even as far back as 1887, devarakadus had been declared as reserve forest.
President of the Coorg Wildlife Society Col C.P. Muthanna opined there was ‘mischief’ behind the move to remove the deemed forest tag from devaracadus. “We do not want any tampering of the deemed forest tag. The devarakadus need to be protected.”
The politico-timber merchant lobby has made forays into devarakadus. There is no estimate of encroachments on devaracadus.
A few years ago, Madikeri MLA Appachu Ranjan was allegedly involved in a move to provide house sites to migrants from a neighbouring state in the Basavanna Devarakadu (sacred grove) in Valnur village in Somwarpet taluk.
The Siddaramaiah government should immediately drop the move to remove the deemed forest tag from devarakadus to save the sacred groves in the interest of protecting the ecology in the fragile Western Ghats.