"What Has Happened To This Little Heaven," Flood-Battered Kodagu Asks

Old residents of Kodagu blame environmental abuse and unplanned tourism for the recent flood devastation

Heavy rain and landslides destroyed homes and roads in Karnataka's Kodagu

Kodagu, Karnataka:

Nature has been violent in the flood-ravaged areas of Kerala and Karnataka but human decisions have definitely led to abuse of the environment and quite possibly made a bad situation worse. Kodavas or the local community in Kodagu are concerned that lack of environmental awareness is a dangerous trend.

Kodagu is the birthplace of the river Cauvery, a small, pretty district that receives plenty of rain even in a normal year. This year wasn't normal and the excess rainfall has led to devastation.

Many residents are concerned that over-exploitation of Kodagu may have contributed to the damage. Mega projects have seen thousands of trees, which hold the earth together, cut.

Madhu Bopanna, a coffee planter told NDTV, "Endemic plants are not being regrown. We are all going for commercial trees because there are a lot of restrictions on growing endemic varieties and cutting them. Commercial trees that we are planting are not suited for this area. They don't have the rooting system to hold the soil. What we need is regrowing of endemic trees and planned developmental approach, the way our forefathers have done."

A power line saw thousands of trees cut. Plans for a highway and a railway line are causing more concern.

"I think nature played a 40% role. 60% is our fault. Felling trees for roads is leading to landslides. It is all our making. We have contributed to it - wittingly and unwittingly. We need to figure out what has happened to this little heaven on Earth. There are a few things I would suggest to the administration. This is the place of water harvesting for southern Karnataka. We need not denude forests. Consider the terrain and be proactive," Rekha Nanjappa, a member of the Coorg Wildlife Society, told NDTV.

Kodagu attracts thousands of tourists but tourism is not well managed, with resorts springing up even on dangerous slopes and just next to rivers.

Near Madapura, we crossed a river that has washed up thousands of plastic bottles as the waters receded. It's a clear indication of the callousness with which we are treating our surrounding.

Mr Bopanna also blamed unplanned tourism. He said, "I understand that having a homestay is an additional income but it should be a very planned approach. I blame part of the devastation on tourists who come here and litter."

"They are building rooms on hill slopes, for views, so that they can attract people. Laws are not being implemented. If you ask me, native people know where to build, what to do... Now everybody is after commercial exploitation of nature. Planned tourism can be good, like it is happening in Kerala," said the coffee planter.

Beautiful Kodagu in Karnataka is battered by rain. But has it also been battered by the lack of compliance with environmental laws and unplanned tourism? For many, the answer is a definite "yes."