Citizens’ efforts to save Chamundi Hills gains traction

They feel conservation, rather than adopting ad hoc measures, is the need of the hour

The series of landslips due to heavy rains during the last few weeks has given fresh impetus to concerned citizens of Mysuru to rally around to save Chamundi Hills from environmental degradation as a fallout of development projects taken up by the authorities in the recent years.

The road to Nandi statue from the View Point junction is out of bounds as there were have been 3 landslips since October 20. The PWD which is in charge of maintaining the roads on Chamundi Hills has roped in experts from the Indian Institute of Science to study the area and come out with a technical solution.

But local activists including NGOs such as Mysore Grahakara Parishat and others aver that the authorities should wake up to the larger issue of conservation rather than adopting ad hoc measures.

Bhamy V. Shenoy of the MGP has reiterated the demand to constitute a Chamundi Hill Development Authority on the lines of MM Hills Development Authority so that all stakeholders have a say in its future.

Dr. Shenoy said though Chamundi Hills is a cultural, spiritual and tourist centre apart from being a major lung space and biodiversity hotspot for Mysuru, the local people have no say in its future.

The so-called development plans are taken up without public consultation and this includes the series of concrete structures like vehicle parking facility and shopping kiosks that were constructed at the hill top at a cost of ₹80 crore despite opposition. The net result is the ecological degradation of the hills which is coming to the fore and hence an online campaign will also be launched to drum up public support to save Chamundi Hills, said Dr. Shenoy.

A morning Kannada daily ‘Andolana’ recently conducted a Strengthen Chamundi Hills programme in which a cross-section of people aired their views and there are plans to take it forward in the ongoing efforts to let the public have a say on issues related to conservation of Chamundi Hills.

Banu Mohan, an environmental activist, said the hill top was fast turning into a concrete jungle and there are threats to the ecological integrity of Chamundi Hills by projects like the ropeway, proposal to expand the two-lane road to four-lane etc., that are frequently mooted by the local elected representatives.

Meanwhile, there is an emerging consensus among the concerned citizens that the authorities should regulate the movement of private vehicles so as to reduce the pressure on the hills as it is done on all the Fridays of Ashada Masa.

What is intriguing is that the State Government had proposed to take up a few additional works under the Central Government’s PRASAD (Pilgrimage Rejuvenation And Spirituality Augmentation Drive) scheme which envisaged introducing electrically operated vehicles to ferry tourists. This, coupled with ban on private vehicles, is expected to reduce the pressure on hills considerably.

If introduced, the vehicle parking facility constructed after felling hundreds of trees despite opposition, will become redundant and underline the shortsightedness of the authorities.

Citizens aver that a buffer zone around Chamundi Hills was also essential to protect its ecological integrity and prevent encroachment at the foothills where residential areas are cropping up.

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