Tree felling to blame for Kodagu landslides

Bengaluru: The hills are coming down in ‘Coffee Land,’ Kodagu with a virtual exodus of residents as incessant rains battered the picturesque district. Old-timers blamed the calamity on reckless construction activity and indiscriminate felling of trees. Fear has gripped people in the ‘Kashmir of Karnataka’ as they really don't know when the hills will come down on them.

Three days ago, several houses had slid from the top of a hill, making many people flee to Kushalnagar and Virajpet, considered safer places. People say the red soil  has never got so loose. Mr Achaiah, an octogenarian in  Madikeri, says Kodagu  has lost its charm due to the mushrooming of concrete structures. The countryside was dug up for construction of roads using heavy machinery which loosened the soil that was easily washed away. Trees were felled recklessly in ecologically sensitive zones, he lamented. 

Kodagu received less than normal rainfall in the past four years. But this year, it broke all records. Heavy  rains have caused  widespread damage to life and property. While the monsoon continues to wreak its fury,  people of Kodagu are worried about the unprecedented landslides, the district has experienced of late.
Three days ago, several houses slid from atop a hill in heavy rain as people watched in terror. The locals recall that the red soil in the district had never loosened in the past, even in heavy rain and wonder what has changed now. Ask the old timers in Kodagu and they blame the reckless felling of trees in the name of development. 

Mr Achaiah, an octagenerian from Madikeri town, says the hills were dug up for construction of roads using heavy machinery and he believes this may have loosened the soil. “In the name of promoting tourism, buildings have been constructed in ecologically sensitive zones and now everyone is bearing the brunt of such thoughtless action. You can't go against nature. Once it turns ferocious nothing can stand in its way," he warns. The damage  to roads and bridges is so severe at present that  it could take at least one month for the state government to repair them, say the people. 

They point out that even big coffee estates up to 60 acres have been washed away in rain, leaving people homeless.  “The need of the hour is to take up temporary repair of roads so that the NDRF teams can reach the worst affected and rescue them,” they say. Chamundeshwari Electricity Supply Company Limited (CESC) has not been unable to restore power supply following the damage caused to the electric poles and transformers with strong gusty winds and rain hampering the restoration work. While power supply has been restored in the bigger towns,  many villages have had no  power supply for the last four days, according to the locals.

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