By P.T. Bopanna
Residents of Kodagu (Coorg) district in Karnataka have not taken kindly to a proposal by the Dabur group to convert a coffee estate into a school campus in an ecologically sensitive zone.
The World Environment School is being planned at Hoskeri village in Madikeri taluk. According to reports, the plan is to build a residential school with facilities for multiple playing fields, swimming pool by converting an existing coffee estate located on a small hillock.
Reports said the Dabur group had sought permission from the district administration to construct a residential school at the site in the past. But, following the concerns raised by the villagers about the destruction of the forest, permission was denied for the same.
A few months ago, villagers of Hoskeri were shaken up by work on a quarry on the land (in picture) where the school was planned. As the area is situated in an elevated position, there was an impending threat of cave-ins, during the monsoon, the residents said.
In a Facebook post, Sandhya Achaya, a resident of Kodagu said: “There is no dearth of barren land to plan the ‘environment school’ and set an example. Why the fragile landscape in Kodagu (Coorg) district of Karnataka. The Geological Survey of India, report on the specific site has stated in clear terms, the slope in the landscape is ‘unsafe’ for a project of such a magnitude.”
Another resident, Dev Uthaiah stated: “The very essence of what you are claiming to give to your students and their parents by selling the idea of sustainability, embracing nature and conserving it, is hypocritical, because the construction of this very school is putting the already fragile eco system around the area at great risk.”
The fears of the residents of Kodagu are justified because the district located on the slopes of Western Ghats has seen back-to-back landslides in the last three years, causing death and devastation.
Last year, the priest of the Talacauvery temple and his family were buried alive following a landslide. This year, already several landslides have been reported in Kodagu. Even the office of the deputy commissioner located on a hillock at Madikeri is in danger. A retaining wall is being built at a cost of around Rs 5 crore to protect the building.
The Dabur group which has a rich legacy, should stay away from ventures that endanger the safety of people living in Kodagu.