K’taka environmentalists oppose plan of making all-season Jog Falls

Karnataka’s proposed Rs 185 crore project to build a five-star hotel, a viewing deck, amphitheatre, boating and other facilities for tourists at the Jog Falls, has drawn sharp criticism from prominent writers and environment activists.

During his visit to Shivamogga district on June 25, Karnataka tourism minister, C.P. Yogeshwara had said that tenders for creating modern tourism facilities at a cost of Rs 185 crore had been finalised and the work will be done by the Karnataka Power Corporation Limited.

Shivamogga-based eminent Kannada writer Dr Na D’Souza, artist H.G. Aruna, power analyst Shankar Sharma besides noted environment activists Akilesh Chipli, Ajay Sharma and host of other noted dignitaries have opposed what they say is the ‘ecologically – destructive Jog Falls development project’.

“It is a disaster in the making as construction activity could trigger landslides. Slope stability is a major concern in this eco-sensitive region and this project could also alter the ecosystem,” eminent Kannada writer Dr Na D’Souza said in his video message.

He added that Jog attracts people for its natural beauty and it should remain that way, the government’s proposed plan is ill-thought-out.

Energy expert Shankar Sharma observed that the grandiose plan of releasing 200 cusecs of water to the Jog Falls from the Linganamakki hydro reservoir to ensure that the splendour of the Jog Falls was available all through the 365 days in a year is itself a flawed idea.

“In the first phase, 200 cusecs of water will be released from the Linganamakki hydro reservoir on government holidays and the quantity of water released will be increased to 300 cusecs daily. How can it be done without causing destruction to the large-scale environment?”, he questioned and added that this region is part one of the eight most ecological sensitive regions in the country.

Noted artist, H.G. Aruna stated that none across the world may have come with such an ill-thought-out plan. “Jog falls just do not belong to the people of Karnataka but they belong to the whole world. We should not spoil the natural beauty associated with it,” he said.

Environment activist Akilesh Chipli said that it is a disaster in the making as construction activity could trigger landslides and slope stability is a major concern.

“Both KPCL and the Jog Management Authority will be doing grave injustice to the people of the region by dancing to the tunes of their political masters. It would be even more a disaster if the Karnataka Forest Department concedes to the demand of Shivamogga MP, B.Y. Raghvendra’s demands,” he said.

A statement released by the United Conservation Movement said that both tourism minister Yogeshwar and Shivamogga MP, Raghvendra must understand that the ecosystems which they are talking about (Niagara falls and Jog Falls) belong to entirely different ecological regions.

Jog Falls is a natural diamond by itself, magnifying its splendour during the south-west monsoon, the statement added.

“Jog Falls is part of India’s merely 21.67 per cent (7,12,249 sq km) of its landscape under forests. The United States of America which has 36.21 (33,13,622 sq km) while Canada where Niagara falls is situated has 38 per cent (3.47 million sq km) of the land mass under forests. Therefore, disturbing existing ecology for the sake of attracting more tourists, only amounts to gross injustice to ecologically sensitive regions like Western Ghat,” the statement explained.

On June 25, Yogeshwar had contended that two hotels to accommodate 1,000 tourists would be established and Jog Falls will be part of Karnataka’s ambitious Heli-Tourism Circuit in order to enable tourists from India and abroad to enjoy the beauty and glory of Jog Falls round the year.

Besides this, another attraction was also proposed to operate speed boats to tourists from Kerala and Goa, he said.

Justifying this project, Yogeshwar had said the Tourism and Hospitality were contributing 14.85 per cent of revenue to the state’s GDP with direct and indirect job creation of 50 lakh.