BENGALURU: A new road has come up on the pristine, verdant Gangdikal slopes inside the Kudremukh National Park (KNP). It has been laid without the necessary clearances.
Wildlife conservationists say any non-forest activity inside a national park needs clearance from the Centre. They say this is an illegal road that has come up on a protected and fragile area.
Despite opposition from local forest officials, this walkway leading to the Gangdikal peak in Malleswara range, Karkala division, has been converted into a road. The move has not only left the area open to soil erosion but has also led to the formation of gullies due to heavy water flow.
The serene wilderness and the unique montane grasslands and shola forests have been degraded by the ongoing road works in which heavy machinery is used, says wildlife conservationist D V Girish.
“Once just a pathway existed. It has now been converted to a motorable road. There was no provision to lay a road here and no permission was sought either. The Karkala forest division has laid this road across steep slopes on a one-kilometre stretch to Gangdikal. In fact, trekkers used to have no qualms walking from the Karkala-Kudremukh Road to Gangdikal, a five-kilometre trek. Using heavy machinery, they have dug up the slopes. Fortunately, they could not stretch the road till the peak as it was too steep,” he said.
Praveen Bhargav, trustee of conservation advocacy organisation Wildlife First, said, “Formation of roads in the fragile shola forest habitats of Kudremukh, which receives 7,000 mm of rain annually, will cause serious damage. The chief wildlife warden must impose a moratorium on all road construction, including the ill-advised proposals for patrolling roads.”
“To increase security, the number of ranges in Kudremukh must be increased to at least seven and there should be enough young, fit personnel to carry out foot patrol. All lucrative civil works in the Annual Plan of Operations must be weeded out,” he added.
Meanwhile, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests Vinay Luthra, during whose tenure as wildlife chief the road came up, said, “I am not aware of this road and for what purpose it was laid. All roads inside national parks need the Centre’s clearance under the Forest Conservation Act. This was probably done for management purposes. However, if there are problems like soil erosion, the department will have to take up maintenance work.”
majesty of the summit
Gangdikal peak, at a height of 1,455 metres above sea level, is a five-km trek from Ganga Moola, the birthplace of Tunga and Bhadra, two major rivers of Karnataka.
Gangdikal, with its shola forests, flat grasslands, and unending streams and waterfalls, is among the world’s biodiversity hotspots. Apart from many small and large mammals, the park harbours the largest living population of the endangered lion-tailed macaque.
Covered in silvery mist that disappears with the rising sun, Gangdikal and other majestic peaks unfold beautifully while the lower half of the mountains are bathed in dense fog. Trekkers say it is a wild, beautiful place, especially after Kudremukh Iron Ore Company wound up operations and left the environment to slowly regenerate itself.