BENGALURU: Welcoming the state government’s moratorium on change in land use in Western Ghats bound districts of Karnataka, environmental experts and forest officials call for stricter adherence to ESZ rules in these districts. They say that rampant conversion of lands in the Malnad belt followed by decreased vegetation had caused landslides following heavy rains.
A forest official said, “With the government temporarily halting land conversions, it demonstrates their late realisation that fragile ecosystems cannot bear such rampant developmental activity. Encroachments, continuous clearance of vegetation and conversions have taken a toll on these hilly areas leading to man made disasters.”
Environmentalist Sundar Muthanna added, “Let us hope in future they will allow only existing landowners to build homes and not resorts. Investors have exploited the land by converting paddy, coffee and forest lands to resorts; exploited groundwater to the hilt and made the hills unstable.”
Geological experts say heavy rains and maybe last month’s tremor have triggered landslides in areas that developed fractures. Geologist G Sitaram said the topography of Kodagu is sensitive and any change in land use can cause landslide. “Decreasing vegetation on slopes is the main cause for landslides. During heavy rains, when water percolates the slopes, it results in erosion of soluble mineral salts in the rock mass, thereby creating fractures. This disturbs the strength of the slopes, resulting in landslides.”
This week, Kodagu has seen sliding of houses - all because of drastic changes in the topography, said Vijayalakshmi B, geographer. “There is no vegetation to bind the soil. People should plant trees around their houses as they do in Ooty. This is nothing but a man made disaster.”
Experts say just like ‘stepped farming’ is done in tea and coffee gardens in hilly areas with contour bounding that can hold the soil intact during heavy rains, this method should be mandatorily adopted in hilly areas such as Kodagu.