Environmentalists play spoilsport, hinder Shishila-Byrapura road development

Belthangadi: Environmentalists playing spoil sport in developmental activity under the pretext of environmental protection, is not a new phenomenon. Injecting fear in people’s mind to block the development works on an age old road between Shishila in Dakshina Kannada and Byrapura in Chikkamagalur and trying to extort money from few stake holders is just an addition to their wily functioning.

Shishila is a small village bordering Dakshina Kannada and Chikkamagalur with a good road link provided under Pradhan Manthri Gramina Sadak Yojana (PMGSY).If one manages to go through the small forest stretch of 12 km via Ferake and Uliya Male then one would reach Byrapura on the other side and later Mudigere town.

Around 80 percent of the designated land for road is owned both by private parties and the government with 20 percent lying in forest zone.

People in the area have been demanding a road link between Shishila and Byrapura since mid-70s. Bullock carts used to carry essentials and few trucks used to ferry timber through the rough terrain in the early 70s. Locals and engineers in the area feel that developing this stretch, once in use, will solve the long pending problem of road connectivity between the two districts. People residing in the border areas have time and again requested elected representatives and officials to fulfill their age old demand.

They launched a massive signature campaign to draw the attention of the state chief minister, prime minister and sought media assistance to find a viable solution to their long pending problem. Considering the hardship faced when Shiradi Ghat road was closed two years ago, even local media supported people’s demand for a new road connecting Shishila and Byrapura. Then even elected representatives from both the districts joined hands to support the move and succeeded in getting a detailed project report ready. Recently, survey too was completed for the road project and people were eagerly anticipating road work to begin soon.

All of a sudden environmentalists appeared on the scene blocking the project by citing forest destruction. They contend that the project is inessential and will lead to destruction of around 30,000 trees. However, public retaliated against their contention and argued that without proper analysis, environmentalist were blocking the developmental activities by taking decisions favourable to them in their air-conditioned rooms. Locals argue that this is being done to extort money and went on to add that the demand for the road is from the people and there are no external lobbies working to reap “quick benefits” from the road project and termed he environmentalists’ claim as “totally hollow.”
Meanwhile, justifying their opposition to the road project, environmentalist from Sahyadri Sanchyana, Dinesha Holla said, “The project will adversely affect the water source of River Kapila. With resorts mushrooming in Mudigere region, environmental destruction has already taken place. The new road will deplete the forest wealth further and give a free hand to thieving in the area and lead to wild animal intrusion in the human habitat. Instead, the better option would be to develop Bisile Ghat road. Certain projects gain shape only when elections are round the corner.”

In reality, the dividing line is very thin when it comes to development on one side and concern for the environment on the other? It remains to be seen, whether the project gets the “extra space” or vanish into “thin air”!



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