►Elders and leaders of organisations warn

# Washed out Kodagu: A series of special reports

Madikeri, August 26: Kodagu is a district covered with hills and valleys. Conservation of these hills is a must to save Kodagu district. It is impossible to imagine Kodagu without hills and valleys. Instead of natural disaster, manmade disasters are the main reason for the present situation of Kodagu district.

There is a big difference between Kodagu two decades ago and the present scenario. Concrete buildings come up in Kodagu which was covered with thick forest, high rise trees and greenery. Tar and concrete roads were laid amidst the forest area. Rubber plantations are being grown by cutting the natural forest. Increased ginger cultivation has depleted the fertility of the soil. Since it is tourist hotspot, the number of hotels and homestays is increasing considerably nowadays. Because of the greed of human beings, the nature is being exploited. This unimagined exploitation of nature has caused such a widespread destruction, according to experts.

Those who come to see the natural disaster at Makkandur in Madikeri taluk expressed their opinions with ‘Varthabharati’.

Kodagu district is a nature’s bounty with beautiful waterfalls and hill ranges. Most parts of the district covered with thick forest and greenery. It’s land of natural resources. More importantly, it is the birthplace of Karnataka’s lifeline Cauvery River. More than this, it is one of the bio-diversity hotspots with rare species of flora and fauna. But they are at the verge of extinct. The worst ever natural disasters are happening now. What’s the use if the people worried now, asks retired army officer KP Jagadeesh.

Deforestation was in large scale to grow rubber and coffee. The hill range was damaged to plant rubber saplings. As the hills are digging like steps to plant rubber plants, the surface of the hills was completely damaged due to which the rainwater is easily percolating instead of flowing down. As a result, the soil is loosening, and big hills are collapsing causing widespread devastation. Thousands of people are on the streets now. We should blame ourselves for this disaster instead of pointing towards the nature, said Kodagu Unification Committee president Suguna Muttanna.

In order to construct concrete buildings atop the hills, roads are being laid around the hills by digging the foot of the hills due to which, the hills are losing their base and balance. The place where the rainwater is flowing is being flattened for constructing buildings and roads. The natural flow of rivers and streams are being diverted. When its raining heavily, the rainwater flows over the roads and gushes into the houses in the absence of natural ways to flow. This would cause landslides and this is man-made disaster, he said.  

One cannot deny the negligence of the district administration and the government for this situation. Both the authorities have failed to protect and conserve the rainforests, natural resources and Kodagu. Though there are some policies are in place to protect the environment, they are not being followed strictly. So, Kodagu will require a separate policy. First the authorities should check digging of hill bases, deforestation and timber mafia. Otherwise, Kodagu people have to face more disasters than this one, said Lions former president JS Madappa.

Permission should not be given to dig hills. If it is necessary, then the district administration should see to it that the norms are followed strictly. While laying roads around hills, proper drainage facility should be made to let rain water and construct retention walls. In place of streams and valleys, alternative arrangements should be made to lay roads. For any reasons, the natural flow of streams should not be diverted. Ginger is being grown in large scale. As the soil fertility is decreasing due to ginger crops and this is also causing damages. The district administration should take steps about this, Madappa said.

A couple of days before the landslides that happened in many places across the district, the cracks were developed in some places. Many people have observed these cracks in their plantations. They have observed the cracks on roads where the hills were sunk and informed the district administration through local bodies. But the district administration has failed to act on it, alleged a villager.

Landslides might have happened in hill ranges and non-inhabited places. This might have happened due to shifting of land’s base. The rainwater percolated in those cracks causing landslides. If the district administration took steps to shift the people and precautionary measures as soon as it was informed, more disaster could have been avoided, Kodagu District Growers Federation president Harish Appaiah said.

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New Delhi, Jul 22: The government on Monday cited an inter-ministerial group report prepared in 2012 to assert that a case for granting special category status to Bihar is not made out; a stand which came a day after BJP's allies from Bihar demanded the status for the backward state.

In a written reply in the Lok Sabha on the first day of the Monsoon session, Minister of State for Finance Pankaj Chaudhary said special category status was granted in the past by the National Development Council (NDC) to some states which were characterised by a number of features necessitating special consideration.

These included hilly and difficult terrain, low population density or sizeable share of tribal population, strategic location along borders with neighbouring countries, economic and infrastructural backwardness and non-viable nature of state finances, he said in reply to a question asked by JD(U) member Rampreet Mandal.

The decision was taken based on an integrated consideration of all the factors listed above and the peculiar situation of a state, the minister said.

"Earlier, the request of Bihar for Special Category Status was considered by an Inter-Ministerial Group (IMG) which submitted its Report on 30th March 2012. The IMG came to the finding that based on existing NDC criteria, the case for Special Category Status for Bihar is not made out," the minister said.

The Congress-led UPA was in power at the time.

JD(U) leader Sanjay Kumar Jha had voiced his party's demand for the status at an all-party meeting on Sunday. The Lok Janshakti Party (Ram Vilas), also a BJP ally, and the opposition RJD echoed the same demand at the meeting.

The JD(U), though, has already conveyed to the Centre that it is willing to settle for a special financial package in case the status cannot be granted to the state.

The BJD and the YSR Congress had made the same demand for Odisha and Andhra Pradesh respectively in the meeting.

The government has in the past also argued that the 14th Finance Commission report has ruled out the possibility of any more states being granted the status, which includes tax relief and higher central funding for the beneficiary states.