Dear Shri Nitin Gadkari,
On behalf of the people of Kodagu (Coorg) in Karnataka, I wish to bring to your kind attention that even before we could recover from the huge landslides which devastated vast areas in our district in August, the proposal to convert the National Highway 275 between Kushalanagar and Madikeri from two-lane to four-lane in the ecologically sensitive Western Ghats has spread panic among the local people.
The people of Kodagu have decided to hold a massive protest rally against the road widening project on December 8 at Madikeri.
Wish to bring to your kind attention a few facts on why the road widening project is environmentally destructive.
As you may be aware Kodagu is the birthplace of river Cauvery and the main catchment area of the river which is the source of drinking water and irrigation for several states.
The proposed highway passes through Anecad, an elephant habitat, and could intensify the man-animal conflict in the region as the road widening will shrink the forest area. This is a recipe for disaster as it involves felling thousands of mature trees in the ecologically-sensitive zone.
Moreover, the core area of the recent landslides are located around the Madikeri-Kushalanagar belt where the road widening is being planned.
More importantly, the committee of experts from the Geological Survey of India (GSI), in its final report on landslides in Kodagu, has concluded that that the disaster was purely man-made.
The report pointed out: “Roads have been constructed in an unscientific fashion, by bulldozing hills in Kodagu district. Natural hills have been demolished while constructing roads, without taking up any precautionary measures. The act has caused damage to the natural landscape of the region. The severely damaged hills have collapsed when the floodwater gushed in.
The main reason for devastation is rainfall and the slope modification by human interference.”
Environmentalists point out the proposal of the National Highway Authority of India involves expanding the existing road by 6-10 times. The environmentalists feel that the present density of traffic can easily be accommodated by adding one meter of paved shoulder on either side of the existing two-lane highway instead of upgrading it into a four-lane one.
On a personal note, I wish to point out that you are one of the few best performing ministers in the NDA government. Request your immediate intervention in stopping the proposed road widening between Kushalanagar and Madikeri.
Journalist & Author