BENGALURU: Now, another round of controversy has snaked up Mullayanagiri, the highest peak in Karnataka.
A newly widened 8 km-long road between Kaimara and Mullayanagiri via Attigundi in the pristine and ecologically fragile hill range suffered landslides during the recent heavy rains.
Activists allege that there have been landslides at 15-20 spots on the road -- larger ones at 4-5 spots and smaller slides at some 15 spots.
However, the road contractor claims that only a small landslip occurred and the damage was seen only near a coffee estate. Currently, the district authorities have stopped visitors from going to Mullayanagiri. Yet one can see a few people and vehicles on the road even as clearance of the debris is still going on in full swing.
The widening of the road that stretches all along the ridges of the steep hill, from 2 metres to 4 metres, was taken up in October last year and completed in May this year. According to Sudarshan, the contractor of the project, the road has been built meeting required standards after consultations with wildlife conservation activist D V Girish and NGO WildCAT-C.
Speaking to TNIE, he said, “Only one landslide has occurred towards the road end, near a coffee estate. That too is a small slide. On the upper reaches of the hill, there are absolutely no landslides.
The road is motorable and there is absolutely no damage. In view of objections, the left side of the road was not touched and we have tried to preserve trees. Not even one per cent damage has occurred.” Girish, however, says it has destroyed the fragile ecology of the hill.
Carrying out a spot inspection from Kaimara to Mullayanagiri after heavy rains, he maintains, “Landslides have occurred at many spots. Presently the road width is 4 metres plus the excavated mud. We appealed to him and asked him not to ruin the hills.”
“Despite a memorandum to the district authorities, they went ahead with the project and widened the existing road which has resulted in the landslides now”, Girish says.
“The earlier road was wide enough. However, with the tourism department sanctioning funds, they took up its widening disregarding all warnings of hazards of such a project on the highest peak in the state. There was no demand for this project as trekkers love to climb the hill and not motor around it on the road”, he maintains. District authorities, however, refused to comment on the matter.
The widening of the road in the eco-fragile area had, in fact, led to the filing of a petition in the High Court citing “irreparable damage” to the pristine hill range. The matter is currently sub-judice.