By P.T. Bopanna
While welcoming the order of Karnataka chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy (in picture) to stop felling of over 800 trees in a landslide-prone area near Madikeri, the government should probe the ‘criminal conspiracy’ angle as to how the Karnataka Housing Board (KHB) outsourced the job of felling trees to an entrepreneur from Andhra Pradesh.
Since Kodagu (Coorg) revenue and forest officials in apparent collusion with politicos are involved in the conspiracy, it is necessary to order an inquiry by the Karnataka CID, to unravel the truth behind the conspiracy to fell trees in K Nidugani Gram Panchayat jurisdiction.
According to reports, the KHB had outsourced the job of felling trees and “developing the land to one Reddy” from Andhra.
Former minister M.C. Nanaiah wondered: “Why should a private person develop the land? The KHB could have done it on its own. There is a hidden agenda and a resort is being built in the area.”
The Madikeri Deputy Conservator of Forests (DCF) issued an order on May 15 to fell as many as 808 trees in response to a request from the KHB. The order stated that the land was converted from agriculture into commercial on November 5, 2011. The order also declares that after the trees were felled, the logs should be converted into different products and handed over to the government tree museum in Anekadu.
Mr Nanaiah alleged that Reddy who was entrusted with the developing the land for KHB had a vested interest as he wanted to build a resort in the adjoining land owned by him (Reddy).
Nanaiah pointed out: “The ‘bane’ land cannot be sold. There are no signs of agriculture in the land and there is not a single coffee plant. The Revenue Department officials seemed to have favoured the wrongdoers in converting non-commercial land into commercial.”
Meanwhile, deputy commissioner Annies Kanmani Joy has ordered a probe into the incident and has also sought a report from the chief conservator of forests (CCF).
The role of Madikeri DCF Manjunath has come under the scanner as he was recently involved in ordering the removal of trees at Raja’s Seat at Madikeri.
The Kodagu DC said appropriate decision will be taken during the forest officials’ meeting on June 14. CCF Santhosh Kumar and DCF Manjunath, who ordered the felling of the trees, will attend the meeting.
Meanwhile, environmentalists are shocked by the massive felling of trees at a time when residents of Kodagu are expecting the worst in the coming monsoon. Last year’s massive landslides in Kodagu have been attributed by geologists mainly to deforestation.
The Kodagu district administration should order a blanket ban on felling of trees till the monsoon is over to prevent timber-laden lorries from damaging the roads which are already in a precarious condition. There is need for reviewing the tree-felling guidelines. There should be a total ban on tree-felling in landslide-prone areas.
The most curious part of the whole episode is the silence of the local legislators.