Nearly 10,000 people representing the Coorg (Kodagu) district in south Karnataka staged a protest in Mysuru on Sunday, against the proposed railway lines through the hill district, that would potentially lead to large-scale deforestation in the environmentally-sensitive region.
Estimates from the Coorg Wildlife Society say that nearly 2,00,000 trees would have to be felled for the two proposed rail routes connecting Mysuru in Karnataka with Mangaluru, going via Madikeri in Coorg, and a second line running to Thalassery in Kerala. However, the proposal has not been cleared by the Centre yet.
This protest was held just a day before Prime Minister Narendra Modi was to flag off two new train services from Mysuru. Representatives from the Coorg delegation are seeking an audience with the prime minister to brief him about this environmentally sensitive issue as well.
Support for the protest rally has been largely apolitical, where people of Coorg from different political parties are taking part in this protest rally for a common cause.
Coorg, or Kodagu, a hill district located in the Western Ghats, is also where river Cauvery originates. The region gets heavy rainfall during the Southwest Monsoon, feeding the Cauvery river catchment areas.
Kodagu has a population of barely five lakh people, and sees nearly 20 lakh tourists annually. This is not sustainable. This project has been undertaken to cater to the tourism industry. Coorg is the main catchment for the Cauvery river, which is the lifeline for eight crore people in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.Col (Retd) CP Muthanna, Coorg Wildlife Society
Coorg is mainly connected by road and is a popular tourist destination. The Karnataka government had sent a proposal to the Centre a few years ago to build a railway line, saying it would aid tourism. However, Kodavas (people of Coorg are known as Kodavas) do not want excess tourism, as it is taking its toll on the region's resources already.
In 2017, a high-tension electric line project that passed through Coorg, all the way to Kerala, led to the cutting of nearly 60,000 trees. Environmentalists say that the impact has already been seen in 2018, with lower rainfall, and rivers like the Lakshmana Teertha, a tributary of the Cauvery, flowing below normal levels.
The protesters also plan to meet railway minister Piyush Goyal, seeking a permanent stop to the proposed railway project.
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