By P.T. Bopanna
The Kodagu (Coorg) district administration in Karnataka has gone bonkers and axed greenery recklessly in the name of security for President Ram Nath Kovind who is visiting the district on February 6.
In their mindless action, roadside trees planted by students two years ago in Madikeri town were removed near Sudarshan Circle located at the entrance to the town in the hill station.
President Kovind is visiting Kodagu to inaugurate the General K.S. Thimayya museum at Madikeri, the district headquarters.
But the worst assault on greenery occurred in the stretch between Bhagamandala and Talacauvery (in picture). President Kovind, accompanied by his wife is scheduled to offer special pooja at the Talacauvery temple, the birthplace of river Cauvery. The President will arrive in a helicopter and travel by road to Talacauvery, covering a distance of 12 km from the helipad.
The forest department workers were deployed to remove tree branches hanging close to the road as a safety measure. But the workers in their enthusiasm, removed a good portion of the greenery.
Environmental activist Kadagadalu Ganesh said: “The
visit by the President is happy news. But, under its pretext, forest department
officials have been felling trees unnecessarily. Asphalting is being done only
on the road on which the President will travel. The rest of the roads are in a
poor condition. There is no logic in the district administration’s plan. The
forest personnel have destroyed nature by felling several trees on
Chettimani-Bhagamandala and Bhagamadala-Talacauvery Road.”
This is not the first time that such an incident has occurred. Two years ago, taking advantage of an order passed by the then Kodagu deputy commissioner P.I. Sreevidya, to prune dangerous trees in the route to be taken by chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy during his Kodagu visit, the notorious Kerala timber lobby brought down 100 first-generation trees on a single day.
The Talacauvery-Bhagamandala stretch, part of the Western Ghats, is one of the biodiversity hotspots in the world. Due to the plunder of the forests in the region by the timber mafia, Kodagu has witnessed major landslides in the last three years.
In fact, a portion of the hill near Talacauvery, where the President is scheduled to visit, had caved in last August, killing five people, including the chief priest of the Talacauvery temple.
A team of geologists, who had conducted a study on the landslides that occurred at Gajagiri Betta in Talacauvery last August, had attributed the landslides to the work on percolation pits taken up by the forest department.
In view of the sensitive nature of the topography around Talacauvery, top officials of the Kodagu district administration should have monitored the cutting down of the branches on roadsides, instead of leaving the entire job to lower level employees.
Meanwhile, the newly appointed DC Charulata Somal has been holding a series of meetings to ensure that the President’s visit goes off without any hitch.