By P.T. Bopanna
In the wake of the recent landslides at Talacauvery, the birth place of river Cauvery in Kodagu (Coorg) district, the Karnataka government should immediately declare the Bhagamandala-Talacauvery temples as pilgrimage centres and ban all tourist activities.
Five persons, including the chief priest of the Talacauvery temple, were buried alive in a landslides triggered by the callousness of government agencies which took up ‘developmental activities’ in the area, mainly to cater to the tourists.
The area around Talacauvery and Bhagamandala temples in the Brahmagiri hill range comprising parts of the Western Ghats has become fragile following the landslides. Unless tourist activities in the area are curtailed, there is a possibility of more landslides which could pose a threat to the temples, considered sacred to the indigenous people of Kodagu (Coorg) in Karnataka.
The genesis to the recent landslides which ripped apart the Brahamagiri hill, goes back to 2014-15 when government agencies deployed earthmovers to undertake rainwater harvesting. And earthmovers were also used to level land for a resort near the Talacauvery Viewpoint.
Environmentalist Thammu Poovaiah has been quoted as saying: “In one of the videos from the landslide site, you can spot unscientifically laid cables, installed by a private mobile network. Government officials have allowed unscientific works, deployed heavy earthmovers, sanctioned funds for new projects and looted tax-payers’ money. But no one takes the blame for the disaster.”
The indigenous Kodavas (Coorgs) consider themselves as the children of the Cauvery river. “As a community of nature worshippers, we think of ourselves as the offspring of the river because it originates from our land. It courses through our lives, from the time we are born until the day we die. Every landmark, every momentous occasion is marked by some association with the Cauvery.”
The Talacauvery temple (in picture above) prior to the ‘modernisation’ drive launched by the government looks serene. But now the temple complex has been turned into a concrete jungle with a ghastly welcome arch.
Tourists, mostly the software types from Bengaluru, have turned the area into a weekend picnic spot. The picture below shows liquor bottles collected by volunteers from the area.
It is not uncommon to find busloads of tourists cooking food on road sides near the temple complex and dumping food and other waste in the vicinity.
The time has come for the local people to assert themselves and pressurise the government to declare Talacauvery-Bhagamandala temples as pilgrimage centres and ban all tourist activities.