Proposal to divert forest land for concrete road to Kodachadri hilltop draws flak

Environmentalists say it will only benefits tourists, trekkers and pilgrims, not forest or wildlife

A proposal to divert forest land to lay a concrete road to the Kodachadri hilltop has become a reason for concern among environmentalists.

Karnataka Road Development Corporation Ltd. (KRDCL), Shivamogga, has sought permission to divert 5.5 hectares of forest land and 0.0676 hectare of non-forest land for the “improvement of mud road to CC road from Kattinahole to Kodachadri hilltop.”

The alignment passes through Chakra Forest, Hosanagar, Sagar taluk, and Kundapur, Udupi. “While the total forest area to be diverted for the project is 5.5 ha., around 4.5053 ha is in Mookambika Wildlife Sanctuary. The remaining 0.9947 ha is in Nagara range of Sagar Division which falls within the eco-sensitive zone of Mookambika Wildlife Sanctuary,” a wildlife activist said, requesting anonymity.

Apart from the DCF of Sagar Division, the CCF of Shivamogga Circle, the DCF of Kudremukh Wildlife Division, the CCF of Mangaluru Circle, the PCCF (Forest Conservation), the PCCF (Head of Forest Force), the Additional Chief Secretary, Forest, Environment and Ecology Department of Karnataka also recommended the forest clearance proposal and sent it to the MoEF&CC, Government of India, for approval.

The Regional Empowered Committee of Integrated Regional Office, MoEF&CC, has sought more information from the State.

In addition, the State Board for Wildlife of Karnataka, in its meeting held in January, had recommended the wildlife clearance proposal, while the Standing Committee of the National Board for Wildlife is yet to consider the proposal, they explained.

The DCF, Sagar Division, had in the recommendation letter, deemed the project “very much essential for visitors or tourists and also to villagers as Kodachadri hill has scenic religious, cultural, and tourism values.” The DCF, Kudremukh Wildlife Division, Karkala, had laid a few conditions that included regulation of vehicles entering the area.

Pleas to reject proposal

But wildlife activists have objected to the proposal and sent a representation to the MoEF&CC, appealing for a rejection terming the existing road illegal as right of way is not mentioned in the reserve forest notification.

“The road from Kattinahole to Kodachadri hilltop passes through Kodachadri Reserve Forest, Chakra State Forest and Madibare Reserve Forest. However, in the notifications of Kodachadri Reserve Forest, Chakra State Forest and Madibare Reserve Forest, there is no mention of right of way for this road and instead it is mentioned as footpath only. Hence, the existing road itself is illegal and therefore the present proposal amounts to formation of a new road,” the representation said.

It added that any attempt to recommend this proposal would be in clear violation of recommendations of the sub-committee on guidelines for roads in protected areas, which state new roads shall not he proposed in national parks and sanctuaries.

They also pointed out that attempts to recommend the proposal would be contrary to the Wildlife Protection Act as the present road is mainly proposed to facilitate tourists/trekkers/pilgrims. The road would endanger wildlife, especially lion tailed macaque, an endangered species facing threat from habitat loss, they added.

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