By Hareesh K G
There are not enough adjectives to explain the enchanting beauty of Kodagu, the tiniest district in Karnataka. Thanks to its exquisiteness, Kodagu has been seeing a tourism boom from the last two decades. As a result, too many home stays and resorts have sprung up across the district. The upgradation of Mysuru-Bantwal state highway 9 (now NH 275) a decade back saw mass flow of tourists into Kodagu from Bengaluru. With more than 15 lakhs tourists visiting Kodagu every year, the ecology of this district is under immense pressure.
An important point to be noted here is that many original inhabitants of Kodagu migrated to metros and some moved abroad. Those who purchased land here started to see monetary benefits from all nook and corners after their acquisition. As a result, many unauthorised structures were built to lure the tourists.
Increased footfall of tourists resulted in a surge of income for people who are directly or indirectly depending on tourism. On the other hand, natural resources of the district took a beating. With sustained pressure on resources to fulfil the need of visitors, the quality of these resources deteriorated.
Lure of tourism sector made sure agriculture was ignored. Instead of working in estates and paddy fields, labourers found it easy and more rewarding to work at homestays, resorts and other commercial establishments. Our farmers fell short of labourers which made some of them leave their field uncultivated. Labourers from Assam, West Bengal and even from Bangladesh (as claimed) arrived in our land in large numbers to make up for shortage of workforce. As a result of inflow of external labourers, crime rate also increased.
An English newspaper recently reported that around 102 square kilometres of canopy was lost in last 15 years in Kodagu. We can attribute major quantum of deforestation to intensified tourism activities. Trees have been chopped for creating resorts and entertainment activities to draw more tourists.
Adding to the woes is the man-animal conflict happening every alternate day in the district. Elephants attacks have been a regular thing in Kodagu with no permanent solution in sight. They have entered our habitat because we have encroached upon their territory. Many lives have been lost in the process.
Going forward, as a course correction, we must act with great responsibility and not tamper with nature. We need to respect nature as our ancestors did. Money is very essential, no doubt, but money is not everything.
The need of the hour in Kodagu is sustainable development. Environment, tourism, agriculture and economic development should be in sync with each other, and not compete with one another.
(Hareesh K G is an Assistant Professor at First Grade College, Murnad, Kodagu.)