Campaign to Save Chamundi Hills
Chamundi Hills was an important watershed for nearly 10 tanks. Development projects will cause a devastation to Chamundi Hills and the forests on the slopes that forms part of the green belt / cover of Mysore. Concrete structures / buildings Land adjoining the hills had been illegally encroached by institutions, in the name of religion, and land mafia. Chamundi Hills should be saved from encroachment and the perils of unbridled urbanisation and unregulated \"development\". There was no study of immediate and long-term environmental effects nor was there a reality check of the economic feasibility of such projects. Any project that entailed ecological damage should be preceded by an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) by a competent and independent body and the law stipulated this. It was only after such an assessment a project could be cleared if it was found to be negative for environmental damage. A series of landslips due to loss of green cover was reported in 2005 and the road leading to Chamundi Hills had to be closed for traffic for some time. The Hon\'ble Supreme Court of India has given unambiguous directives to the State Governments on environment protection and conservation. The Forest Department has not objected to the so-called development works including the proposed ropeway project. It received Rs. 49.45 million to take up conservation work as Chamundi Hills was stated to be \"facing serious problems\". It\'s no qualms about supporting the ropeway and other infrastructure projects though it / they entail(s) destruction of vast tracts of forests. The Karnataka Industrial Area Development Board (KIADB) has handed over land to M/S Sikka Traders to set up a base station for the ropeway. Night bazaars will be established at Bannimantap and recreation parks at Nishad Bagh (Kuppanna Park), the Kukkarahalli Lake and Dalvoy Lake. The horizontal expansion of Mysore is taking its toll on the fragile ecosystem, and the vacant land facing the eastern ridge of Chamundi Hill has already been developed and will be allotted as sites to the public in due course. Development pressure, which has been confined to the northern side and western side of Chamundi Hills, is now visible in the southern extremities. The only conservation measure of some significance was the notification of 105 acres of land for a heritage park at the foot of Chamundi Hills, which is to be developed by the MUDA. The horizontal sprawl of Mysore, which is expected to envelop the eastern ridge of Chamundi Hills, is likely to intensify once the doubling of Mysore-Bangalore railway line and the opening of the Mysore airport are completed. The concept of development as envisaged by the authorities includes creation of guesthouses, parking lots and infrastructure even as there are talks of reviving the vexed ropeway project. The popularity of the Chamundi Hills among pilgrims and tourists has increased over the years, and the number of visitors increased from a few lakhs to 70 lakh last year (2007). Such a rush can only spell doom to the fragile ecology. But neither the Government nor the Forest Department has ordered a study in this regard. But what is intriguing is that the Government has decided to declare the Chamundi Hills as a notified area for the purpose of expediting development, while a plea for a similar notification for protecting the ecological integrity of the hills fell on deaf ears. With the introduction of Dasoha or free meals for pilgrims, the number of visitors is bound to increase, which calls for special measures to ensure that the fragile ecology did not wilt. But the authorities have paid little importance to conservation of open spaces or declaring a 500-metre buffer zone around the Chamundi Hills. As a result, many residential layouts have come up and even Mysore Urban Development Authority (MUDA) has carved out over 10,000 sites along the eastern ridges of the Chamundi Hills. This means, Mysore\'s growth, which was limited towards the western ridges all through centuries, will now be visible even along its eastern ridges. The Government has relaxed land-use pattern, which is an open invitation to realtors and land sharks to step in. The fence had been cut open at a few places to let the livestock in for illegal grazing. Illegal quarrying and making of bricks had further deteriorated the forest area outside the fence as trees are being cut down to bake bricks. The landslip reported atop Chamundi Hills on Friday May 19, 2006 following heavy rain is a pointer to the fragility of the eco-system. It also underlines the need to conduct an EIA to ascertain the feasibility of the proposed projects and make it available to the public before they\'re cleared. The forest area and green cover of Chamundi Hills had gradually been reduced to 25 sqkm in the absence of a \"buffer zone\" or \"green belt\". Chamundi Hill Conservation Area (CHCA) 50 metres of land around a water body and its feeder channels may please be protected. Preservation of the hill and its surroundings would recharge underground water, which could supply at least 25 per cent of the water requirement to a population of 16 lakh. Creation of a Buffer zone or green belt around Chamundi Hills It entails demarcating 500 metres around Chamundi Hills and notifying the land and banning all activities that threatens the ecology of the region due to change in land use pattern. This will regulate construction activity and prevent encroachment. Core Conservation Area/Zone (300 metres) To prevent encroachment and further erosion of green cover, at least 300 metres around the hills may please be declared \"core conservation area / zone\" where land can only be used for social forestry and conservation activity. Peripheral Conservation Area/Zone (200 metres) The remaining 200 metres may please be declared \"peripheral conservation area\" with emphasis on horticulture and agriculture. We also request the government to retrieve the encroached land and recruit more forest guards to check poaching and illegal grazing.