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21 October, 2016

Bengaluru's growth is irreversible

Bengaluru needed a plan in place in early 1990s when we knew we would reach this stage in urbanisation. How come we woke only now?
Pic: Ameen Ahmed (All rights reserved)
I recollect those frequent return daily train trips between Tumakuru - Bengaluru between 1999-2002. All the discarded radio sets were slowly crawling back thanks to the couple of private FM channels that broadcast the latest songs. The Kannada Sanghas were equally active even back then. The newspapers would frequently report their demonstrations against the handful of FM radio stations airing Hindi songs that catered to the large influx of non-Kannadiga techies immigrating into the yet Garden City. The Arasikere-Bengaluru passenger train would slow down as it approached Yeshvantpur Junction. Mathikere tank adjoining the railway track to the north was still a decent wetland. I remember sighting flocks of Purple Moorhens running over the hyacinth leaves. And also the migratory waders from far off lands in a feeding frenzy on its shores. And one of those days I noticed people dumping garbage and construction debris in it. The pace increased over days and months. The huts came up then. One a day. Two a day. No one to stop. Last week I took a train trip from Tumakuru to Bengaluru after about 8 years since my last one. I saw this tank again and I wished I had not done so.

As 2000 passed, Bengaluru ate away all its sand and much of timber. In our drives around Tumakuru and neighbouring districts we could see the day light looting of the resources- chiefly sand and timber, for the buildings coming up in Bengaluru. Around the same time hundreds of thousands of mature indigenous British-era trees were chopped for Atal Bihari Vajapayee's pet NH Golden Quadrilateral project across the country, Bengaluru being no exception. Many of them ended up in newly set up brick kilns, some of them not far from the highways. The kilns were churning out bricks for a city that was engulfed in a construction frenzy.

Another British-era roadside tree that was felled for the expansion of National Highway No: 4 near Dobbspet in Nelamangala Taluk, Bengaluru District 
Pic: Ameen Ahmed (All rights reserved)
Things started slowly appearing in the media in 2007-08 when villagers in neighbouring districts realised there was no sand in their streams and with that no water as well. People died as well, after sand caved in near many villages nullahs and water courses The trickle of sand laden lorries had turned into a torrent towards Bangalore. The demand was insatiable. Every one benefited. Yes, every one, including me. The sand in one of those lorries must have also been used for the construction of my apartment in 2002-03. The beneficiaries of this could also be many of our new tree huggers planning their next protest against the steel flyover.

Bengaluru needed a plan in place in early 1990s or at least in the mid-1990s when we knew we would reach this stage in urbanisation. How come we woke only now? Are we going to stop every new road expansion project in the city? Should the city's development come to a grinding halt just because we have realised our folly now? This steel bridge is an alarm call but it is not the last. No change in Governments can stop urbanisation. It is irreversible.

Yes. The process of improving public transport and universal access to it can (and should) be fastened. The weaning away from private vehicles to public transport should be gradual and time bound. The civil society can (may be it should) take a lead in it by ensuring vultures out to score political brownies are kept at a distance. Will it happen now when it has not happened in the last 20 - 25 years? Well, we can always try.

Bangalore’s missing grasslands
Tigers in Bangalore in the Colonial era
Conservation of Devarayanadurga forest over the centuries
Devarayanadurga’s big game in legends and shikar tales
My Devarayanadurga
Wilderness Areas of Tumkur 

20 May, 2016

Tigers in Bangalore in the Colonial era

A version of this story 'The last of Bengaluru’s tigers' was published in 'India Today' in December 2014

A sketch of a British hunter on a tiger shikar (hunt).
SourceArthur J. O. Pollock, 'Sporting days in Southern India', 1894. 
In the 19th century the tiger was no stranger to undivided Bengaluru district which included today’s Ramanagar district. There are many accounts in the British literature on the presence of this magnificent cat here. Bengaluru figures prominently in the shikar literature as it was an important cantonment during the entire stretch of the British rule here which started with the annihilation of the Mysore army in 1799. The city was surrounded by open areas that had grasslands and the wildlife depending on it like blackbuck, lesser florican and great Indian bustard. Nevertheless, big cats like tigers and leopards thrived in pockets of woods in and around the city.

Tiger killing, a public amusement in early 1800s
Among the earliest narratives of the tiger around Bengaluru can be found in Francis Buchanan‘s book ‘A journey from Madras through the countries of Mysore, Canara and Malabar’ published in 1801 in 3 volumes. He mentions of tigers in Ramagiri hill near Ramanagar town and also near Chennapatna town both of which are about an hour’s drive today from the city. It may surprise many, but according to shikar literature, hunting of captured tigers was a popular sport right inside the city in early 19th century. The Maharaja of Mysore, who overlooked the affairs of the city along with the rest of Mysore kingdom from 1799 to 1831, used captured tigers for the amusement of state guests. Such guests, many of whom were serving British officers, were given a chance to indulge in spearing of big cats including tigers, leopards and cheetahs, the later known as the ‘hunting leopard’ in early shikar literature. Numerous men on horsebacks, elephants and even foot would take the captured animals in cages and release them in the open where hunters would spear them repeatedly till they met their gory end. One popular place where this ‘amusement’ took place was the old race course of Bengaluru. Gillespie.R.R ('A memoir of Major-General Sir R. R. Gillespie', 1816) mentions an instance of this happening in 1809. Col. James Welsh records his spearing of a tiger here that was captured near Closepet (former name of Ramanagar town) and brought here for this specific purpose. He also narrates another event of spearing a tiger in October 1811 in the same book ‘Military Reminiscenes Extracted from a journal of nearly forty years’ active service in East Indies’, 1830.
In his book ‘Thirty Years in India’, 1839, Major Hery Bevan of the Madras Native Infantry has documented his experiences between 1808 to 1838 as a soldier and shikari in India and recollects Maharaja of Mysore promoting the spearing of cheetahs as a ‘public amusement’. This sport seems to have stopped after the British imposed their direct administration of Mysore province in 1831 when they removed the Maharaja from power. In ‘My Indian Journal’, 1864, Col. Walter Campbell refers to Captain Welsh’s narration of tiger and leopard spearing as an event in the past but does not mention if the same was practised as he wrote it.

Sketch of a tiger attacking a shikar elephant
SourceMoray Brown.,J, 'Shikar sketches, with notes on Indian field-sports', 1887
Government reward for killing tigers 
There are British records of rewarding the killing of tigers and other big game like leopards and elephants ever since their capture of Mysore Kingdom and partition of its territories amongst the war allies in 1799. In December that year, Arthur Wellesley, then Governor of Seringapatam and Mysore, recommended the Government 'for an allowance for the destruction of tigers' in the neighbourhood of Chitradurga (‘Dispatches of Field Marshall Duke of Wellington, during his various campaigns in India, Denmark, Portugal, Spain, the Low countries and France from 1799 – 1818’, 1834). From 1831 to 1881, when Mysore province was administered directly by the British, the tiger was continued to be seen as a threat to humans even when it had not turned to killing humans or cattle. In July 1834 the British under Mark Cubbon, Commissioner of Mysore, brought about reforms of police in the province. A Hukumnama or code was issued that mandated the duties of the Armed Kandachar Peon or the police constable of today. Among the duties was the killing of tigers for which they were rewarded Rs. 10 for an adult and Rs. 5 for a cub! The Asiatic Journal & Monthly Register for British and Foreign ..., (Volume 19, No: 73, May 1834) mentions of tiger skins being brought into Bengaluru in ‘abundance’ from the ‘adjoining country’ to claim money from the Government which rewarded their ‘extirpation’. And that reward seems to have been increased later on. In ‘Thirteen Years Among The Wild Beasts Of India’, 1879, Sanderson.G.P. writes that the Government reward in Mysore province for killing a panther (leopard) was Rs. 25. For a tiger the reward was Rs. 30 which later was increased to Rs. 50. The price on the tiger’s head was surprising given this statement by Sanderson in the same book, ‘Man-eaters are exceedingly rare in Mysore and the surrounding territories. In the past fifteen years there has only been one of great note—the Benkipoor tiger.’ Year wise details of the number of wild animals killed, including tigers, can be found in some shikar literature as well as the Government documents of those days.

Wild animals hunted in British India in 1878
Source: '2 years in the jungle - the experiences of a hunter and naturalist in India, Ceylon, the Malay Peninsula & Borneo', 1904. 
Well-known illustrator Douglas Hamilton in September 1853 is credited with a hunting trip to Bidadi, today a densely populated suburb of Bengaluru, in ‘Records of sport in southern India...from journals written between 1844 and 1870’, 1892.

Today’s National Highway, then an abode for tigers
The observations on the tiger around Bengaluru by Major General R.S.Dobbs in ‘Reminiscences of Life in Mysore, South Africa, and Burmah’, 1882, are equally fascinating. Dobbs first visited Bengaluru in 1828. In 1835 he moved to Tumakuru, head quarters of Chitradurga Division, where he served as the division’s Superintendent for over two decades. Officers and their dependants intending to travel to Tumakuru from Bengaluru had to do so on palanquins, over a narrow track that crossed through thick jungle at some places. During nights the palanquin bearers would miss their way many times. He adds there was hardly any cart traffic during those days and travellers used carts to move light luggage only occasionally. It seems the condition of this track was so bad that a cart travelling on it would overturn many times. And he quotes one instance where a young missionary was told about a wild tiger that had crossed the track half an hour earlier with a cub in its mouth.  Dobbs is credited with developing the many roads of the Division later on including this cart track which today is a part of the busy National Highway no: 4 (NH4) that connects Mumbai with Chennai via Bengaluru.

Col. Dobbs is credited with developing many roads. They include a cart track which today is a part of the busy National Highway no: 4 (NH4), seen above, that connects Bengaluru to Mumbai.
Photo: Ameen Ahmed
Apart from shikar literature there are numerous references to wildlife by the missionaries of those days. Rec. William Arthur in his 'A mission to the Mysore with scenes and facts illustrative of India, its people, and its religion', 1850, has an interesting description of his journey to Tumakuru from Bengaluru where he mentions ’blaze of fires, lighted to keep tigers away‘ near the hillock of Shivagana not far from the stretch of road mentioned above. In ‘Sporting days in Southern India’, 1894, Captain Arthur.J.O.Pollock narrates about a tiger, in October 1881, whose beat extended from Devarayanadurga near Tumakuru to Magadi west of Bengaluru, which also covered the above stretch of NH4.

Records of tiger hunts and shooting begin to fade in the British literature of early 20th century. According to news report in the Nottingham Evening Post dated 9 March 1907, two village shikaris shot and killed a tigress within eleven miles of Bengaluru. That tiger was reported to have taken to cattle lifting. Kenneth Anderson in his books has written about hunting tigers in the areas Old Mysore state in 1950s and 60s, but not many of them are from Bengaluru district. Like any town and city across India, even Bengaluru has a rich natural history. But thanks to the writers of those days we are able to understand today how the wilderness around the city looked then.

Bangalore’s missing grasslands
Bengaluru's growth is irreversible
Conservation of Devarayanadurga forest over the centuries
Devarayanadurga’s big game in legends and shikar tales
My Devarayanadurga
Wilderness Areas of Tumkur

19 May, 2016

Bangalore’s missing grasslands

By Ameen Ahmed

A version of this story 'When city was a jungle' was published in the Deccan Herald, Bengaluru (Nov 18, 2014)
The blackbuck is an indicator species of the grasslands. There are numerous hunting records of this mammal in and around today's Bengaluru (Bangalore).
Today’s Bangalore is much different from the small town it was in 16th century, when Kempe Gowda founded it. Akin to any settlement in India those days, it was surrounded by farmlands, grazing fields and wilderness areas like wetlands, grasslands and forests. As time progressed the city grew, attracting the attention of its rulers. While its mud fort was enlarged and rebuilt with stone by Hyder Ali in the 18th century, the British after capturing Mysore Kingdom in 1799 made this town their new headquarters of the Kingdom. They preferred it for its elevation as well as ‘its position on the high road from Madras to Mysore’. Among others Lt-General Colin Mackenzie,C.B., a British officer, in his book ‘Storms and Sunshine of a Soldier’s Life’ (1884) described the city’s weather as ‘one of the finest in India’. Lewin B.Bowring the former Commissioner of Mysore province wrote in his book Eastern Experiences (1871) “The English soldiers are in the habit of playing cricket on the parade-ground for eight months of the year without any ill effects.”

With the new found love of the British for the town and the establishing of a cantonment nearby, Bangalore’s urban settlements began expanding rapidly with traders flocking to it. Its growth pace hastened after the civil administration of the Mysore province was transferred to the place following British takeover of the Government from the Maharaja of Mysore in 1831 citing farmers’ unrest.  In 1864, when the railway was opened, the town became a huge centre for trade in the entire British India with its population being second only to Chennai (then Madras) in the whole of southern India.

Moray Brown.J in ‘Shikar sketches: With notes on Indian field-sports’ (1887) wrote about the town becoming a base for British sportsmen from all over their empire who descended here drawn by the plentiful of hunting opportunities in the jungles within its reach, chiefly in the Anamalai and Wayanad regions.  Many of these sportsmen and officers left behind a wealth of written knowledge which today provides a window to the wildlife and wilderness areas around this city in the 19th and first half of the 20th centuries.
Grasslands like these have all but disappeared from Bangalore district
When grasslands exceeded the woods
The forests in the eastern parts of the erstwhile Mysore province, that includes urban Bangalore, are concentrated around the broken Closepet granite hill chain, whose well-watered valleys promote a luxuriant growth of woods. Undivided Bangalore district that included today’s Ramanagara District had forests and hilly areas in its western and southern parts while the central and eastern parts were more open. In fact a closer look at the British writings and illustrations suggest the vast countryside around the Closepet hill chain was actually open grassland area on which both domestic and wild herbivores like blackbuck thrived, closely followed by their natural predators like wolves. It may surprise many that some of the most commercially built areas of today’s urban Bangalore were actually places where grassland wildlife that are now rare and endangered once thrived.

One of the earliest accounts of Bangalore’s grassland wildlife are by F.C.Hicks in his book ‘Forty Years Among the Wild Animals of India from Mysore to the Himalayas’ (1910) where he recollected shooting 48 of lesser florican birds in one day and 56 on another in either January 1874 or 1875, in the district. This bird is today classified as ‘endangered’.

Lt. Col. Arthur.J.O. Pollock is another excellent source to learn about the state of Bangalore’s different wildlife and wilderness areas in the 19th century. He wrote in detail in ‘Sporting days in Southern India’ (1894) about his numerous hunts of grassland wildlife like blackbuck and lesser florican and wetland birds like the snipe, within and around today’s urban Bangalore.
According to him the blackbuck was always found in ‘maidan country’ – as the plains are also known, in herds ranging from six to sixty. Its favourite haunts were large plains spread with tracts of scrub jungle that had millet cultivated agricultural lands bordering them, which these animals raided at night. It is apparent according to his writings that such plains were found in plenty in today’s urban Bangalore.

Among the animals dependent on the grasslands is the wolf
Bangalore’s areas where grasslands and their wildlife once thrived 
Pollock’s usual programme was to depart at night to reach Sarjapura at day break where blackbuck was found in plenty. The terrain there was undulating and scattered with clumps of shrubs of bajra (pearl millet). The blackbuck was stalked until 9 AM after which the hunters had their breakfast. Post-breakfast, the migratory bird snipe, that came out to seek the hot sun, would be hunted through the day.

Around Bangalore district, the places favoured by hunters seeking blackbuck were the casuarina plantations at Malur, Kolar District to the east and Chitradurga district to the north-west as well as the main road to Hassan from Bangalore in the west which ran through some excellent blackbuck ground.

Pollock mentioned the presence of ‘large grass slopes’ near Subedar Chattam area where he hunted lesser florican. This area today is located in the Bangalore’s central business district. The adjoining Tumkur district was also said to have ‘good’ habitat of this bird in 1890s, according to Russel.C.E.M in ‘Bullet and Shot in Indian Forest, Plain & Hill’.

Published in 1892, ‘Records of Sport in Southern India from Journals written between 1844 and 1870’ has some remarkable illustrations by Douglas Hamilton of the hunts of wildlife like bustard, wolf and even cheetah, that were carried out in the grasslands of south India. It has a wealth of information on the wildlife that once thrived in such open areas particularly around Bangalore.
What Bangalore has lost in its 400 year journey

The lesser florican is a grassland bird and was once hunted by the dozens in and outside today's Bangalore.
The city eats away its grasslands
In the race for development Bangaloreans have slowly elbowed out the rare wildlife in and around the city. Though mammals like leopard and wild boar have somehow managed to survive in many of the areas nearby the wildlife that is dependent on grasslands have vanished. The Indian wolf, Great Indian bustard and blackbuck are missing. There has been just one confirmed sighting of lesser florican in Bangalore district since the last one by Lieut. Col. R. M. Betham in December 1911 and not one Great Indian Bustard has been seen here in over a hundred years. One needs to travel hundreds of kilometres today to see any of those wildlife.

The grasslands and their accompanying wildlife started disappearing once we moved from our tradition of preserving pasture land for domestic and wild herbivores. In the past few decades these areas were increasingly seen as waste areas not worthy of being conserved. This attitude resulted in most of them being diverted for ‘development’ needs like housing and industries. Many of them were planted with water hardy exotic plants like eucalyptus which forced the grassland wildlife to move away permanently in search of pasture land. The easy accessibility to ground water through bore wells has resulted in many of the grasslands around Bangalore district being converted to cash crops like vine yards.

When urban settlements first came up in Bangalore 400 years ago the city had many beautiful animals neighboured its residents. Unfortunately their numbers and variety took a hit as the city ‘developed’. It will help if the residents of this wonderful city join hands to save the remaining grasslands and their wildlife in the nation as a compensation for what the economic progress has done to them inside it.

Bengaluru's growth is irreversible
Conservation of Devarayanadurga forest over the centuries
Devarayanadurga’s big game in legends and shikar tales
Tigers in Bangalore in the Colonial era
My Devarayanadurga
Wilderness Areas of Tumkur 

21 June, 2015

A day of extra-ordinary rains around Tumakuru

169 years ago - A day of extra-ordinary rains around Tumakuru
"On the 4th of October, 1846, an extraordinary storm of this sort broke over the hills to the north of Toomcoor, in the Chittledroog district, 10 inches of rain fell in 4 hours, and burst the bunds of nearly all the tanks over a range of 80 miles. The presence of trees appears in some way to modify these sudden bursts of rain and to eualize the falls, as similar thunder storms are common in the immediate
neighbourhood of Seringapatam, where rocks are abundant and verdure scanty."

Source: 'Notes on the influence exercised by Trees on Climate'
The Madras Journal of Literature and Science. Published under the auspices of the Madras Literary Society and Auxillary of the Royal Asiatic Society, Vol. 15, 1849, Madras.

Conservation of Devarayanadurga forest over the centuries
Devarayanadurga’s big game in legends and shikar tales
Bangalore’s missing grasslands
Tigers in Bangalore in the Colonial era
Bengaluru's growth is irreversible
My Devarayanadurga
Wilderness Areas of Tumkur 

13 April, 2015

Unscientific restoration threatens Sira fort

History of Sira town
The history of Sira town can be traced back to the dismantling of Vijayanagar Empire in 1565 at the Battle of Rakkasa-Tangadgi (Battle of Talikota). During the power vaccum that followed in this part of the world, Sira town was found, attributed to Kasturi Rangappa Nayaka, Chief of Ratnagiri. The town was the centre of power of ocal rulers till 1638, prominent among whom being the Nayakas and Palaigars (Polygars). 

Sira's connection with Shivaji...
In 1638, the Adil Shahi Bijapur Army led by Ranadulla Khan captured Sira and areas of Tumkur north of it. The same year one Shahji Rao Bhonsle along with Ranadulla Khan captured Bangalore for the Adil Shahis, due to which Bangalore was given as a jagir to Shahji. Shahji was the father of the Marhata King Shivaji.

...with Aurangazeb
Moghul Emperor Aurangazeb captured Golkonda & Bijapur in 1686-87 and made Sira a 'Suba' or province of the Moghul Empire, which remained so till 1757. 

...and with Haider Ali and Tipu.
Sira town was captured by Marhatas in 1757 but was lost to Haidar Ali in 1759. It intermittently remained with the later until 1774. From then on it continuously remained with him and his son Tipu Sultan (apart for a brief period in 1791) till Tipu's death on the battle field in mid-1799. Under the British the town went behind as a centre of political power, but still remained a big centre of trade. 

Architectural importance of Sira and Bangalore's inspiration from Sira
Sira has many Palaigars, Nayaka, Adil Shahi and Moghul era monuments even today. It is widely believed and mentioned in British Raj records that Haidar Ali, was inspired with Mughal architecture of Sira and that the palaces built by him and his son at Srirangapattana and Bangalore are said to have been replicas of the one at Sira which were built by Dilavar Khan, the Mughal governorof Sira (1726-1756). It is also said that the Bangalore fort was built on the model of the fort at Sira. The famous Lal Bagh gardens commissioned by Haidar Ali at Bangalore also probably inspired by the Khan Bagh at Sira.

A jewel of a fort - Sira Fort (Kasturi Rangappa Nayaka Fort)
A very important monument inside Sira town is the Sira Fort, popular as Kasturi Rangappa Nayaka Fort named after the Nayaka ruler who is supposed to have found the Sira town and started construction of this fort in early 17th century. It is said that before Kasturi Rangappa Nayaka could complete the fort's construction, the region was captured by Adil Shahis of Bijapur. Mallik Hussain, a Governor of the Sira Province under the Adil Shahis is said to have completed the fort's construction and enclosed the town with mud walls. The fort has additions by various rulers.

It is perhaps the only intact non-hill square fort in Karnataka. A moat surrounds it on the outside.

The square fort at Sira seen on Google Maps on 19 Apr. 2015

An angled view of the square fort at Sira seen on Google Maps on 19 Apr. 2015
A view of the western ramparts of Sira fort, Tumakuru District, as seen from its north-western tower.
It has three gateways. 
a) On the north side is the entrance to the fort and its first gateway which was built by the Palaigars. 
b) Diddi-bagilu, is the second gateway and is a Hindu work. Later on brick and masonry battlements with holes for musketry and opening for cannon were added, in all probability by Haidar Ali and and Tipu Sultan. These brick and masonry battlements are very similar to the forts controlled by them - Nandi Durga (Nandi Hills), Madhugiri fort, Chenna Rayana Durga fort among others. 
c) The third gateway has Dravidian pillars and is also Hindu in construction.

The third gateway of Sira Fort has Dravidian pillars and is Hindu in construction.
Inside the fort is an old building in ruins, of stone and brick with a Bijapur style lily flower parapet, probably a former palace. Also inside the fort are a disused step well and what looks like a royal bath house. A small back gate exists in the south of the fort-wall. 

Legal protection of the Sira fort: Protected by Archaeology Department, Govt. of Karnataka. 

Threat to Sira fort
The fort was for long neglected and buildings inside it are in ruins. But surprisingly, much of the stone ramparts are intact along with brick and masonry works of the Mysore rulers. But unscientific work being carried out by authorities is endangering the very character of this fort:

1) At the entrance of this fort (north), the 18th century the Mysore rulers' brick and masonry work has already been destroyed during repair works a couple of years ago and replaced by modern day red bricks.
The 18th century brick & masonry work at the northern entrance of the fort has been destroyed for ever. 
2) For the past few days (in March-April 2015) the stone ramparts on the north and east, which apparently had cracked, are being ripped apart using heavy machinery. The same is being replaced by a mixture of old and new stones. But the 225-year old brick and masonry work of the Mysore rulers is also being destroyed in the process and replaced by recent bricks. The musketry and canon openings are being lost for ever.

Centuries old priceless brick & masonry work is lying destroyed.
The 18th century brick & masonry work on the north-eastern, north-western and south-eastern ramparts
of the fort has been permanently been destroyed in the past few days (Mar-Apr. 2015)
Centuries old priceless brick & masonry work is lying destroyed.
3) Though the JCB/ excavator driver along with workers at the site were unable to give me answers today (Sun, 12 Apr. 2015) as to who is carrying out the work, there is no way such a work can be carried out without the knowledge of the Tumakuru District authorities or the ASI. 

4) The fort's massive unscientific restoration is irreversible and will permanently change its historical character. The south-eastern tower has already been dismantled.

The massive destruction to the fort is irreversible and will permanently change its historical character. 
5) The rate at which the mechanised work is being carried out, there is little doubt that the entire fort will be ripped apart unscientifically until it is stopped right away.

Granite stones being lined in front of the Sira fort to replace the existing ones in the fort walls
Appeal to save the fort:
Please request the Deputy Commissioner and the Archaeology Survey of India (ASI) to 
1) immediately stop use of JCB/ excavator to rip apart the fort ramparts as well as its brick and masonry work.
2) set up a 5-member committee of ASI officials, qualified archaeologists and historical building conservationists to look into repairing the parts of the fort damaged by the repair works carried out in the past days as well as in the past 2 years. 
3) not to carry out any further work without the concurrence of the above committee.
4) to make public any work plan to conserve this fort. 

09 November, 2014

Conservation of Devarayanadurga forest over the centuries

This is an unedited version of the story that was published in two parts* in the Deccan Herald, Bangalore, in Aug-Sep 2014.
Devarayanadurga, Tumkur Ameen, Tumakuru
A view of Devarayanadurga forests
©Ameen Ahmed (All rights reserved)
Located a stone’s throw distance from Tumkur city towards east atop one of the many hills of the metamorphic Closepet granite chain that runs, often breaking in between, from Hospet in north Karnataka to Yellandur near Chamarajanagar town in south is the picturesque Devarayanadurga village. It is a place which gives a sense of joy to varied people. To a Hindu pilgrim it is abode of the many gods well-known of which is Lord Narasimhaswamy. To a history buff, it is home to structures like the Devarayanadurga fort which is eye witness to the happenings here for the last few centuries. For a meditator, the ambience of the place at a height of almost 4,000 feet above sea level is perfect to spend some peaceful moments away from the noisy and polluted cities. Devarayanadurga village was the seat of many rulers and had its name changed many times until it gained its current name post its capture by Mysore Maharaja Chikkadevaraja Wodeyar in 1696, who is credited with erecting the fort here that exists even today.

Biodiversity treasure trove
To a wildlife lover Devarayanadurga state forest which surrounds this village and the hill is a local biodiversity hot spot where locally rare mammals, birds, reptiles, insects, amphibians and trees and shrubs thrive in plenty. This wonderful woodland is home to mammals like Hanuman langur, spotted deer, leopard, wild boar, slender loris as well as nearly 250 species of birds and more than 50 butterfly types. Over 200 species of plants and shrubs have been recorded here by botanists. It is an oasis of moist forest species - some plants and animals mainly found in the moist forests of Western Ghats can also be come across here unlike the surrounding plains. There are eyewitness accounts of tiger roaming in this jungle ever since its presence was first documented here by British officers in the 19th century.

Apart from the significant emotional and recreational quotient, this forest gives birth to many streams that quench the parched throats of tens of thousands of residents surrounding it.  It forms a major catchment area for streams like Garudachala as well as the locally well-known Jaya and Mangali. Beyond their place of joining, the Jayamangali is dammed at Irrakasandra irrigation project and Teeta dam near the well-known Goravanahalli Lakshmi temple, both inside Tumkur district. Downstream it flows east of the Jayamangali Blackbuck Reserve and near Parigi village in Andhra Pradesh it joins the Uttara Pinakini stream which originates from Ghati Subramanya and Nandi Hills. The waters ultimately empty into the Bay of Bengal near Nellore, after a journey of nearly 600 km.

19th century forest protection in Devarayanadurga and the scene in then Mysore state and rest of India 
Though this hill forest is a popular destination for people from surrounding human settlements including Bangalore city, few are aware of its rich conservation history that rivals some of India’s best known national parks and wildlife sanctuaries. It is among the earliest protected forests of the Indian subcontinent.

When the British East India Company retook the reigns of the kingdom of Mysore from the Maharaja in 1831 after the Nagar rebellion, they divided it into four Divisions overlooked by four Superintendents reporting to a Chief Commissioner in 1834. It is a common belief that the British had interest in forests for their timber as well as for the fuel wood needs of their cantonments and settlements. But there are documented instances of the British showing genuine concern to conserve the state’s forests for better reasons. Major General Dobbs, a British officer and a Protestant missionary, oversaw the affairs of Chitradurga Division, of which Chitradurga and Tumkur districts were a part, as Superintendent starting in 1835. He was one of the longest serving Superintendents of this Division. He penned memories of his service, particularly his observations in Chitradurga and Tumkur districts in the book ‘Reminiscences of Life in Mysore, South Africa, and Burmah’ in 1882. He refers to Devarayanadurga quite a few times in this book and also elsewhere in the British records. A cottage, known today as the Dobb’s Bungalow, atop the Devarayanadurga hill was built by him. He was enchanted by the wildlife and serenity atop the hill and on occasions sang hymns atop the hill for his guests, overlooking the beautiful sunsets.

In 1852, with Mark Cubbon as the Chief Commissioner of the Province of Mysore, the jungles of Devarayanadurga began receiving partial protection under revenue department. In 1854-55 Major Dobbs expressed his concern on the deforestation here as he observed that only a third of its original forest cover remained since he first took charge as Superintendent in 1935. He blamed the removal of trees on iron smelting and took measures to arrest the deforestation by banning iron forges. Under Major Lewin Bowring, Chief Commissioner of Mysore and Coorg, a department of forest administration was formed in the province in 1864 for the first time ever.  The following year the first legislation to protect the state’s forests was framed. In 1868 Devarayanadurga forests’ ownership was transferred to the Forest Department, which constituted it as a State Forest under Captain Van Someran, the Conservator of Forests - highest ranking forest officer of the Mysore province between 1865 and 1879. According to his memo appended to his annual report of 1873-74, the forest then was spread over an area of 18 square miles (46.62 sq. km). In 1879, the forest was surveyed and mapped by the Mysore Topographical Survey Department according to which the computed area was 11 square miles and 256 acres (29.52 sq. km), but somehow this area was not taken into account and the old estimated area of 18 square miles continued to be shown in the accounts. Between 1880 and 1882 without formal enquiry the forest was extended by adding an estimated area of 6 square miles (15.53 sq. km).  Meanwhile after a period of 50 years, the Maharaja was restored as the head of the princely state of Mysore, but the forests continued to be governed by the British as prescribed by the Indian Forest Act, 1878. Devarayanadurga then was one of the 32 state or reserved forests of the province which totaled to 454 square miles (1176 sq. km).

On 6 February 1883, according to notification No. 38 under Section 9 of the Revised Forest Rules of 1878 in force then in the Mysore Province, the entire Devarayanadurga forest block was re-demarcated and its boundaries were notified based on the lines demarcating the forest from the villages around it. But the notification did not specify the actual revised area of the block. In 1891-92 and 1893-94 about half a square mile was excluded, as it was recorded that they were wrongly included in the demarcation line. In 1889, the area was further extended east on the orders of G.W.L. Ricketts, the first Inspector General of Forests of Mysore state, adding a block estimated at 6 square miles (15.53 sq. km), and notifying it in 1895. In 1896 Col. J.Walker, considered to be the first professional Conservator of Forests of Mysore state, noticed during his tour to the district that this forest was periodically extended without formal settlement and it was encumbered with numerous rights and privileges chiefly to the people surrounding it. He therefore ordered a careful investigation into the rights and privileges and if necessary the revision of its boundaries. In 1897-98 the settlement was accordingly carried out by a revenue officer in concert with the District Forest Officer and was finally disposed of by the Deputy Commissioner about which Col. Walker was satisfied and the boundaries were finally rectified.

Strengthening of conservation in 20th century
On 1 June 1906, the revised boundaries of the Devarayanadurga State Forest were forwarded for publication, both in English and 'Kanarese' (as Kannada was called then) in the Gazette. Hence, after 50 years from the first protection accorded to it, on 19 February 1907, the final notification of the forest was published vide Govt. Order no: 7591-Fr-120-06-3. This notification included 16.88 square miles (43.72 sq. km) of area as Devarayanadurga state forest.  The extent of the forest today is almost the same as the area notified then. In fact today there is a considerable area of adjoining land belonging to the revenue department which is covered by forest.

Devarayanadurga’s name as a forest spread far and wide attracting the attention of well known birdwatcher Dr. Salim Ali. In 1939-1940, he welcomed the New Year here in a unique way – studying birds. This visit was part of his study of birds of the State of Mysore from Nov. 1939 to Feb 1940 funded by the Government of Maharaja of Mysore. He recorded 56 species during his 5 day stay here at the old forest bungalow at Namada Chelume. The list of birds included the hill myna which is not to be found here today. The yellowthroated sparrow was re-sighted by members of the local wildlife NGO Wildlife Aware Nature Club (WANC) including this author in 2007 after a gap of 69 years.

What’s in store in the 21st century?
Apart from the centuries’ old two Narasimha temples, Devarayanadurga is dotted with many structures dating to a few decades or centuries. While the old stone stair ways and kallu mantapas (stone shades) for travellers leading to the hill top from the village are in a fairly decent condition, the Dobbs Bungalow, the old  British forest bungalow where Salim Ali stayed and the Devarayanadurga fort are in need of urgent attention.

Like forests everywhere else in India the woods here face threat from forces of unregulated development despite protection measures of the forest department and support by local conservation groups. In the past couple of years the construction of an illegal road inside this forest to Chinnaga Betta the source of an important perennial stream of Jaya Mangali stream was stopped mid way by using RTI and approaching the Lok Ayukta by local wildlife activists including this author. But the forest may undergo drastic reduction in its area thanks to plans by the successive state Governments to build a dam to store water brought in from Yettinahole stream in Western Ghats. About 700 hectares or 7 sq. km of the notified forest along with many more hectares of non-notified forests on the adjoining revenue lands will drown forever if this proposed project goes ahead. Unless alternatives are found, we may lose a rich part of human and natural history for ever.

Over a hundred and fifty years into its official protection, the woods of Devarayanadurga continue to fulfill their ecological functions of priceless economic value assigned by nature like giving pristine water and pure air, without taking back anything in return. They have inspired numerous young minds to delve deeper into the world of nature and wildlife. They will continue to serve us for as long as we want, only if we leave them as they are. Let’s hope the policy makers keep in mind their contribution to our culture, traditions and water security before cutting short their future and also that of the people and wild animals depending on them.

* Ahmed, Ameen. (2014) A green treasure trove. Deccan Herald. [Online] 16th September. Available from: [Accessed: 8 November 2014].

28 October, 2014

Wildlife Aware Nature Club: 'The Green Brigade'

This story was published in Deccan Herald's Spectrum supplement on 4 Dec 2007.

The Wildlife Aware Nature Club in Tumkur works for the cause of nature and wildlife conservation. Bharathi Prabhu outlines the activities of this environment-conscious group.

When people in and around Tumkur spot a snake, see any encroachment into forest area, find a wild animal being illegally transported, a lake becoming a landfill, or perceive any problem as an environmental one, they know whom to contact. It is a Wildlife Aware Nature Club (WANC) member that they think of first. For a small NGO in Tumkur with around 10-15 core members and no big time funding, the amount of work done by WANC is astounding.

Two things strike you about the group right away - commitment of its members and the diverse environmental issues they tackle. The core members have all been with the group for over 10 years now and they meet regularly to discuss their individual work and plan strategies.

Creating awareness, organising treks, preparing status reports on wildlife, participating in environmental projects, taking on powerful lobbies and increasingly using the internet - all in its efforts to conserve nature, this group has now won recognition even internationally.

WANC started off as an informal study group of four youngsters in 1990. All of them were deeply interested in nature and the presence of Devarayanadurga in their backyard acted as a catalyst for them to explore and learn.

“We were initially with the WWF and received guidance in activities like bird watching. We carried out a census of the birds and butterflies of the region for them but soon we were on our own,” explains Nandeesh, one of the founders. A businessman by profession, Nandeesh's love for nature, especially snakes, has turned him into an expert snake catcher or ‘rescuer’, as he points out!

Industrialist TVN Murthy, another founder and now a nominated honourary wildlife warden, works tirelessly in his capacity as an advisor. The group began by giving talks on ‘Nature Awareness’ in schools and conducting camps. This obviously had the desired effect! Three of the core members now were part of their audience then!

Elaborates Guruprasad of IBM, “I was in high school and took part in one of WANC's nature camps. I have been hooked ever since.”

Guruprasad's subsequent work on vultures of Tumkur district made him the youngest paper presenter in an international conference. Ameen Ahmed too was all of 15 when he came in contact with WANC. Now at 32, this manager of Greenpeace, India, has the honour of preparing the first ever checklist of birds of Karnataka along with Dr U V Singh, IFS. Another camper, Prasanna, went on to pursue a masters in ecological sciences and is the co-editor of ‘Parisara Arthakosha,’ the first ever environment dictionary in Kannada.

WANC's work at the grassroot level is equally noteworthy. Bank employee Upadhyaya, like other WANCers, believes in 'catching them young'. He has lost count of the number of schools they have talked in! Campaigning against the indiscriminate use of plastic and wastage of water, and instilling love and respect for all forms of life are his forte.

Soubhagya, a teacher, is a ready reckoner of sorts on medicinal plants. With Guruprasad's help she has prepared slides which she uses to educate the public. Gundappa, the unassuming science teacher, is the bio-diversity expert of his village Nagavalli.

Thanks to this man's efforts in co-ordination with the Center for Ecological Sciences, students and the community of Nagavalli participated in the Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan for their area.

Together they studied the crops grown, water problems faced, etc. and culled out indigenous solutions. It was largely due to Gundappa's efforts that a Slender Loris Sanctuary, India's first, has come up in Nagavalli.

WANCers also fondly recall the impact their discovery of the State's second largest colony of painted storks in Kaggaladu had on the villagers. The villagers are more knowledgeable about their birds now. It was also due to the wildlife (specifically blackbuck) data that the group furnished, that Maidenahalli was declared Tumkur district's first Conservation Reserve.

The group usually approaches the department/ organisation concerned to sort out any environmental issue, but in the absence of results, they have taken recourse to law.

For instance, WANCer Mallikarjun was on one of his regular treks in Devarayanadurga when he spotted illegal road construction. Alert members of the press also took up the case and now Lokayuktha and Supreme Court have been approached by WANC. The club has also sought information under the RTI act regarding various activities in various reserve forests of the district.

The jewel in the crown, according to all members, is however WANC's victory against Tumkur University which wanted to set up its campus in the reserve forest of Devarayanadurga. The case which was eventually won in the Supreme Court had attracted quite a bit of attention.

What pleases WANCers is that their fight helped preserve their beloved forests. The members now want to save Tumkur city from the ills of unplanned urbanisation.

Reviving Amani lake of Tumkur, preserving the wilderness around and continuing with their conservation efforts, therefore, top their agenda. It does seem like Mother Nature can breathe easy with WANCers around.

Conservation of Devarayanadurga forest over the centuries
Devarayanadurga’s big game in legends and shikar tales
Bangalore’s missing grasslands
Tigers in Bangalore in the Colonial era
My Devarayanadurga
Wilderness Areas of Tumkur


07 October, 2014

Devarayanadurga’s big game in legends and shikar tales

This story was published in the Deccan Herald ('Spectrum' supplement, Bangalore) on 7 October 2014 titled 'Shikar tales of Tumkur'*
One of the tigers shot by British hunter Arthur J. O. Pollock. He narrates interesting tales of his shikar in Devarayanadurga's jungles
Source: 'Sporting days in Southern India', Arthur J. O. Pollock, 1894
In the aftermath of any victory on the battlefield the prime task of an occupying force is to settle all pressing issues of the administration of the occupied territory to smoothly achieve their aims of occupation. On 15 Dec 1799, seven months after vanquishing the Mysore army on the battle field,  the  Governor of Seringapatam and Mysore Arthur Wellesley, who was a Lieutenant-colonel in the coalition of the winning native and European armies, thought it very important to address the ‘issue’ of tigers patrolling the vicinity of modern day Chitradurga city. In a letter from Srirangapatna to Lt. Col. Close  published in the book ‘Dispatches of Field Marshall Duke of Wellington, during his various campaigns in India, Denmark, Portugal, Spain, the Low countries and France from 1799 – 1818’ compiled by Lt. Col. Gurwood he writes, “In consequence of a letter from Colonel Oliver, an extract of which I enclose, I wrote to Government for an allowance for the destruction of tigers in the neighbourhood of Chittledroog, similar to that given in the Baramahal”. 

Chitradurga, or Chittledroog as the British called it, today is a bustling city on the Mumbai – Bangalore stretch of National Highway 4 inhabited by over a hundred thousand people. And Baramahal District refers to areas under the present day Dharmapuri and Krishnagiri districts.

Though the thought of eliminating even a single wild tiger today is chilling, the above note by Arthur Wellesely leaves a very important sign of the natural history at that time. It is true that the British occupied India for their own gains. But the literature from their rule, particularly 19th century, is dotted with priceless information on the state of affairs of the people, their traditions and the natural resources, including the wildlife, as witnessed during that period of history.

The big game in and around Devarayanadurga in 1800s
The shikar era was an age where shikaris or hunters - both legal and illegal, thrived on the big game of the nation’s forests. The Wild Birds and Animals Protection Act enacted by the British in 1912 and amended in 1935 was not strong enough to deter India’s wildlife like the cheetah from being hunted into extinction. This continued till 1972 when the Wildlife Protection Act was enacted which made hunting of all wild animals punishable more stringently. The British literature as well as that immediately after 1947 makes it clear that during the days of shikar the woods of Devarayanadurga were no different from other wildlife havens across the nation. The wildlife in them attracted shikaris from far and wide. And being close to Bangalore meant this woodland was always within the eye sight of many shikaris.

A view of Devarayanadurga hill surrounded by farmlands and scrub forest
©Ameen Ahmed (All rights reserved) 
There are numerous references to the big game of Devarayanadurga in the records of the British officers. Major General Dobbs wrote about the tigers in these districts in his book ‘Reminiscences of Life in Mysore, South Africa, and Burmah’ published in 1882. Dobbs was the longest serving British officer of Chitradurga Division, of which Chitradurga and Tumkur districts were a part, when the British administered the old Mysore state from 1831 to 1881. He has interesting narrations of tigers in the division including in and around today’s Tumkur city. He claims that tigers and leopards were among the principal wildlife of the division and the wrought great ‘destruction of life of humans and cattle’. He describes a method of trapping he put in place in the Chitradurga division due to which48 tigers were trapped in a short period, including four whose skins were brought to him on one morning. And there was a tiger which he writes was ‘unusually large’ that was shot on the outskirts of Tumkur city. He took its skin to England in 1856 and gifted to a relative who resided in Scotland. The trophy ultimately came back to him from the relative.

A tiger skin on display at a late sportsman's bungalow in Coorg. Col. Dobbs took a similar skin of a 'large' tiger shot in Tumkur to England in 1856
©Ameen Ahmed (All rights reserved) 
Dobbs seemed to have a particular liking for the wilderness of Devarayanadurga as it also made a positive spiritual impact on his religious practises. He narrates many accounts of his interactions with this forest’s wildlife. He tried preserving the game for fellow Europeans whom he would host for shikar. He speaks of the presence of sambur (which the British of that time referred to as elk) near the Devarayanadurga hill top, apart from tiger in the forests around the hill. The ‘common antelope’ (blackbuck) was so abundant in the country surrounding Devarayanadurga that one British officer shot 200 of these magnificent creatures ‘within a few days’. He narrates how an entire dead blackbuck would be available at the Tumkur market for ‘4 annas’ or about a quarter of a rupee. The spotted deer was ’never numerous’. British officers also indulged in ‘jig-sticking’ or spear hunting of wild boar as well as shooting sloth bears in the division. He observes how the reduction of tigers and leopards in the division due to hunting led to an increase in wild boar which damaged crops. He regretted the opening up of Devarayanadurga forest for shikar during his tenure as it led to the destruction of almost all wildlife there except the tiger.

An European indulging in spearhunting blackbuck in south India
Source: 'Records of sport in southern India between 1844 and 1870' , Douglas Hamilton (published in 1892)
Another British officer, Lt. Col. Arthur J. O. Pollock, in his book ‘Sporting days in Southern India’ published in 1894, gives interesting shikar accounts from Devarayanadurga’s jungles, in particular of the tiger. In October 1881 he ‘beat’ these jungles for several days looking for a tiger which was reported to be killing a lot of cattle in the vicinity. Although a number of spotted deer, wild boar as well as sambur were driven out daily he could not get a shot at the big cat. During a hunting expedition, the shikaris would employ ‘beaters’ who would create a ruckus by beating instruments to flush animals from their forest hideouts. And they would be accompanied by camp followers to help meet the needs of the hunting expedition. During this hunt, he recollects an incident where the camp followers pestered him for wild meat. Heeding to their request he organised a party of 100 villagers and four shikaris equipped with matchlock firearms. The beating began at a place that he refers to as the bungalow near Kumbarahalli which is probably the old forest bungalow of today’s Namadachelume. The shikar ended in a near tragedy as one of the shikaris ended up shooting a fellow sportsman who had crept much ahead of the crowd wanting to bag an animal by his own! The injured man was shifted to the hospital at nearby Tumkur and fortunately survived. It is not mentioned in the book if he volunteered to be a shikari again!

Inside the trophy room of Digby Davies, a British officer of Bombay police. The British shot many tigers
during their rule in India.
Source: 'Tiger slayer by order', Gouldesbury, C. E., 1915
Tigers again...
Over a century later, Dr. Uday Veer Singh, the then Deputy Conservator of Forests (DCF) of Tumkur District recorded the sighting an ‘adult’ tiger on the main road near Namada Chelume while patrolling Devarayanadurga forest in his official vehicle on a cold December night in 1996. This sighting by an IFS officer was a pleasant surprise to Tumkur’s nature lovers who were used to seeing leopards at regular intervals and had not heard of the tiger’s presence here in a long time. In August 2001, TVN Murthy, Honorary Wildlife Warden and wildlife activist of Tumkur-based Wildlife Aware Nature Club (WANC) claimed the sighting of two fully grown tigers inside this forest near the Namadachelume area. Reports of tiger sighting here continued coming in including by the forest department officials through the first decade of this century.

Over 40 years before Dr. U.V.Singh’s sighting, noted hunter Kenneth Anderson wrote about his shooting down of a tigress, in his book Nine Man-Eaters and One Rouge published in 1955. A tigress he named 'The Hermit of Devarayandurga' had killed 3 people in the vicinity of Devarayanadurga village. The tigress was said to be unusually aggressive and killed the gunman of a party of men that had gone to collect the body of an old woman whom it had killed earlier. He writes he shot it down after tracking it for 4 days. But that was an era when the human population was lesser and the pressures on this forest were few. What could have drawn the tiger again to the wilderness of Devarayanadurga towards the dawn of 21st century?

There are many theories that crop up on how a tiger could have entered this forest despite the fact that it today is isolated with no forested contiguity with another forest inhabited by tigers. In the late 1990s the possessing of wild animals in moving circuses was banned by the Government and there was pressure on people with captive tigers and other wild animals to account for such animals and hand over their custody to the authorities. Although the tiger could have been one such species left to fend for itself in the wilderness of Devarayanadurga by its owner who wanted to avoid the bureaucratic red tape , the possibility of a wild tiger having made this place its temporary home may not be out of place. Movement of wildlife is not always predictable. There are recent scientifically proven events of the tiger walking long distances often slipping through human habitation to reach forests hundreds of kilometres away. We also are witness how for over a decade an animal as big as the elephant is travelling unnoticed for long distances each summer to suddenly appear in the dry non-forested areas of south interior Karnataka, chiefly Tumkur. In his book Dobbs observes that the tiger is ‘migratory, and constantly came from different ranges to the superior cover in the vicinity of Daveroydroog’. Lt. Col. Pollock in his book says the tiger of Devarayanadurga, had its beat ‘extending from here all the way south to Magadi town’, west of Bangalore. Finally, Kenneth Anderson mentions that tigers had not been seen in Devarayanadurga’s jungles in ‘many a decade’ and the one he shot had migrated here 'among flat, cultivated fields'.

Every forest and wilderness is blessed with its own rich history of tales and legends. Devanarayanadurga boasts of its own hard to believe stories that fortunately have been documented in literature over the centuries. It is in our interest to conserve this wonderful part of our country, its associated memories and heritage into posterity.


Conservation of Devarayanadurga forest over the centuries
Bangalore’s missing grasslands
Tigers in Bangalore in the Colonial era
My Devarayanadurga
Wilderness Areas of Tumkur 

06 November, 2013

A victory against illegal widening of road inside Devarayanadurga forest

Dear Nature lovers,

Tumkur's forests, wildlife and nature lovers have a reason to cheer thanks to the Honourable Lokayukta of Karnataka. We have scored a small victory against the illegal widening of road in Chinnaga area inside Devarayanadurga state forest boundaries. The Honourable Lokayukta of Karnataka has issued orders disposing our complaint filed in October 2007 (Case no: COMPT/ LOK/ BD/112/2007) regarding these matters. 

Below is a brief summary of the orders:
a) Order to DC, Tumkur District: To provide details of Assistant Executive Engineer (AEE), ZP in whose period the road was illegally widened.
b) Order to RFO, Tumkur Range: To file chargesheet against above AEE as well as contractors responsible for illegal widening of the road. 
c) Order to the PCCF, Karnataka: To look into the illegal activities taking place inside Devarayanadurga state forest and other forests across Tumkur district and submit a report to the H'ble Lokayukta within one month.

This is a big boost to nature lovers for the following reasons:
1) It upholds the sanctity of the original notification of Devarayanadurga issued in 1907 as well as the Survey of India map (topo-sheet 57G/3 of 1:50,000 scale) which were the pillars of our allegations. 
2) Secondly, the H'ble Lokayukta itself is agreeing and legally upholding our allegations as true. It boosts the moral standing of local environment activists in common man's eyes. 
3) This order will create fear among the corrupt officials who will now think twice before breaking our forest and wildlife laws. It will encourage the honest officials who have always stood up for the law to fearlessly carry out their duties even when under pressure from their political bosses
4) Most importantly this has set an example for other conservationists across India to take the help of law to solve similar cases. And they can use original reserve forest notifications dating back to 1900 AD as basis of their complaint.

We look forward to see the punishment which the road contractors and the AEE get. No matter what the punishment is, it will set an example against all such misadventures in the future.

WANC thanks the people who have strived to bring into existence Right to Information Act (RTI) in India and also those who have worked for the existence and strengthening of Lokayukta in Karnataka. We thank all our well wishers for their continued support and encouragement.

And this good news is a call for a small celebration and also a reason for greater determination to work to save our last remaining wilderness areas as we approach WANC's 25th anniversary next year. 

Below is a scanned copy of the H'ble Lokayukta court order. And here is our original complaint:

Thank you,
Ameen Ahmed

Below are a few other posts on this blog related to these issues: