Mysuru: Can we have development at the cost of risking losing a thousand years of priceless heritage including temples and ancient structures, not to mention precious flora and fauna? This is the perplexing question facing those planning the development of Chamundi hills in Mysuru, previously known as Mahabaladri hills, so that it can add to the comfort levels of tourists.
The hill with its mythological and historic significance, occupies a unique place in the life of people of Mysuru region. The shrine at a height of 3,489 feet, houses Goddess Chamundeswari, the deity of the royal family of Mysuru.
The hill slopes are home to over 150 varieties of butterflies, 140 birds species, leopards and rare mammals. “Chamundi shrine is one among 18 Shakthi peetas, according to the South Indian version of Skandapurana and is more than 400 years old,” says Dr Shalvapille Iyengar of the Department of Ancient History and Archaeology, KSOU. It attracted 25,06,339 devotees in 2015-16 and earned revenue of 21.68 crore in the financial year. It had attracted, 21,05,797 devotees in 2014-15.
Considering the surge in devotees, the Karnataka government stepped in to take up development projects to provide basic infrastructure to pilgrims and this has raised the eyebrows of environmentalists and Mysuru Grahakara Parishat. The projects being planned are a multi-level parking lot which can house 600 cars at a time, a commercial complex with 118 shops, a queue line to the temple with a toilet block costing Rs 79.94 crores in 8.04 acres of land atop the hills, according to Temple Executive Officer, Mr Prasad. CM Siddaramaiah laid the foundation stone for the project recently.
Approval has also been sought by the PWD department to widen 1.4 km of the existing road and upgrade it to four lane by widening it to seven feet from Nandi hill circle to Mahishasura statue. But Mysuru Grahakara Parishat has written an open letter to the CM, Prime Minister, and concerned departments at the Centre and in the state opposing the project. They may file an appeal in the National Green Tribunal against the project, especially the four laning of the road.
Activists say Chamundi hills has been reduced from 3,500 acres before 1984 to a mere 1,500 acres now. “We are not against development. But planners have failed to consider the long-term implications and have ignored religious sensitivities of the people.
The area is a plastic-free zone but the entire area is littered with plastic bags and non-biodegradable waste. Have they planned a sewage treatment plant? No. The area around the temple is dotted with constructions, some illegal, others badly planned. The project will not just destroy what is left of the ecology, it will affect religious and cultural values along with serenity of the hills,” claims MGP President Dr Chandraprakash.
He says that the Deputy Conservator of Forests, Mysuru, had rejected the four-lane proposal in 2012 and 2014. But now, the work is being undertaken with clearance from the additional director, south zone, environment, forest and climate change ministry of the Central government.
“Besides, they have plans to build dormitories, VIP guest houses and hotels according to information obtained through RTI Act. “This will only worsen the situation. Unlike Tirupati and MM Hills, pilgrims need not stay at Chamundi hills since Mysuru city is nearby and there is good bus connectivity,” Mr Chandraprakash said....