BENGALURU:The Centre has gone ahead with survey work for the Shisila-Byrapura road project in Chikkamagaluru district and completed a stretch of 10 km in the forest regions of Byrapura village sans any permission. This road project is part of the 242.31 km-long Golden Quadrilateral (GQ) Bantwal-Chitradurga Corridor Project, but will fragment the already disturbed Western Ghats.
Meanwhile, the Forest Department has lodged an FIR against PWD executive engineer, Chikkamagaluru, and five other people belonging to a private company who were carrying out survey work on behalf of National Highways Authority of India. As per the FIR filed by Mudigere Range, these people had illegally done survey work in forest area and in shola grasslands. The work was carried out in Survey numbers 152, 87, 88, 86 of Byrapura village, Byrapura beat and Devarunda section, Mudigere range, Chikkamagaluru division. Further, they had illegally entered the forest area without permission, thereby violating Section 24(ii) (gg) of Karnataka Forest Act, 1963.
The quadrilateral project passing through Mudigere, Kadur, Hosadurga and Holalkere will connect Mangaluru Port (NH-75) to NH-4 at Chitradurga is being taken up at a cost `5,358 crore.However, both the forest department and environmentalists are opposing the Shishila-Byrapur road (NH-173) project in Chikkamagaluru as it passes through pristine reserve forests, shola grasslands and regions which gives birth to 7-8 major rivers of Karnataka, forest streams, and is part of elephant and bison corridors.
Calling for complete stoppage to the project, Sriharsha Hegde of Malnad Jagruthi Vedike says, “NHAI outsourced the survey work to a private company who started doing the survey work without permission from the Forest Department. As it is, this project has been stopped many times but it seems to raise its hydra head now and then. This is a region which receives 300 inches of rainfall annually and is the birthplace of major rivers like Netravathi, Hemavathi, Kapila, Shisila, Kumaradhara and many other forest streams. Without them, Karnataka will go completely dry.”
G Veeresh, wildlife activist adds, “These are rain forest areas and most critical and pristine areas for the survival of wildlife. Already the two main Ghats - the Shiradi and Charmadi -- have been divided by highways and caused permanent damage to the rain forests. With this new highway, it will completely cut and fragment Western Ghats. Further, tigers, leopards, elephants, gaur, lion-tailed macaque and so many endangered wild species will be under threat if this project is implemented.”
On Wednesday, a statewide people’s campaign was launched demanding the stoppage of the Shishila-Byrapur road project that will involve felling of 40,000 trees in Chikkamagaluru district. In an appeal to the PMO, Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari, Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, Chikkamagaluru MP Shobha Karandlaje and the chief minister of Karnataka, people called for immediate stoppage of the project in the eco-sensitive Western Ghats. They said, “We hope the leadership will understand the importance of Western Ghats and not victimise the people for benefit of timber, mining and the real estate lobby.”