By P.T. Bopanna
Though landslides have occurred for the third year in a row in Karnataka’s Kodagu (Coorg) district, located in the fragile Western Ghats, there is lack of transparency in the land use pattern in the district.
This reporter has been highlighting how paddy fields are being converted into housing layouts, despite the back-to-back calamity caused by unscientific land use.
Housing layouts are being formed on paddy fields by the side of the highway at Hathur town and another major project near Malambatti on Virajpet-Madikeri highway. The deputy commissioner should immediately halt constructions and review the permissions allegedly obtained through fraudulent means.
It is learnt that a previous DC had fraudulently given sanctions for conversion of paddy lands into layouts. There is no reason to allow the fraud to be perpetuated. A message should go out that the fragile landscape is not damaged by unscrupulous builders.
More worrying is the proposal of the Yediyurappa government to dilute the Karnataka Land Reforms Act to allow for the direct purchase of agricultural land from farmers by industrialists. The government should keep Kodagu out of the ambit of this amendment because of the threat posed by landslides.
According to reports, a team of experts from the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru, has found that the built-up area in Kodagu has increased from 1.55% to 2.69% in three years from 2016 to 2019.
And the native vegetation cover including forest, scrub jungles, sacred groves have declined from 45.44% of the land area to 44.46%. Further, it was pointed out that the interior forest cover of the district had declined from 24% to 22.23%.
The team has cautioned against formation of new layouts, resorts, and highway expansions.
Meanwhile, an experts
committee led by Ananth Hegade Ashisara, chairperson of the Sate Biodiversity
Board, which visited the Malnad areas, said: “The India Meteorological
Department has already issued forecast of heavy rainfall in the coming
days. Already the scientists from Geological Survey of India have identified
sensitive areas that are prone to landslides in Chikkamagaluru and Kodagu
districts.To avoid any possible human loss and other related damage, the
government must draw up a contingency plan to set up rehabilitation camps and
shifting of villagers to safer locations.”