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21 June, 2007

Trees felled to widen Namadachelume Road

Road widening inside Devarayana Durga state forest is taking place without any concern for the trees and the natural environment.

On June 21, three WANCers- Ameen Ahmed, Mallikarjun and Guru Prasad observed and noted the following:
1). The road from 5th mile stone (8th km stone) to Durgadahalli cross beyond Namadachelume, which is currently about 10 - 12 feet wide, is being widened to about 35 - 40 feet i.e. till the cattle prevention trenches on either side of the road that were dug during M.N.Narayanaswamy DCF's period.
2) A JCB has been used to widen this entire 6 km stretch.
3) Almost all the scrub forest trees and small trees have been uprooted/felled along this stretch for this purpose. On this page are a couple of these pictures.
4) All the big and mature trees that could not be removed by the JCB have been marked by machets ( "macchu" as we call in Kannada) / sharp instruments. These big trees are intended to be removed for the road widening process. We have photographed some of these trees and on this page are a couple of these pictures.
5) Infact a few medium sized trees have already been felled. We have photographed these and on this page are a couple of these pictures.

Apart from the above, we noted the following:
6. There has been fresh tree felling inside the Girlekatte Valleybelow the view point between Namadachelume and Devarayana Durga hill.
7. The road from Swandenahalli to Chinnagara Betta is now visible from the DD hills on the way to Yoga Narasimha temple. This road earlier was not even visible during the summer season let alone the monsoons.

All this makes us wonder if we have any reason to celebrate Devarayana Durga's 100th birthday. We need to do something really urgent and drastic to save "Namma Devarayana Durga", else we will not have any forest left near Tumkur City within the next 5 to 10 years.

One of the many trees cut down for the road expansion

The proposed width of the road being expanded can be seen in this picture

A tree marked for felling besides the road

An uprooted tree besides earth that has been excavated besides the road

An uprooted tree besides earth that has been excavated besides the road

An uprooted tree besides earth that has been excavated besides the road

"Jelly kallu" or gravel stones in the forest near Namadachelume's ecological park besides the road to expand it.

Another view of gravel stones in the forest besides the road to expand it.

What remains of a once beautiful Gulmohar tree

Another view of the same Gulmohar tree

A huge Silk Cotton tree that will be felled to widen the road

Another view of the Silk Cotton tree that will be felled to widen the road

14 June, 2007

Road from Swandenahalli to Durgadahalli destroys prime area of Devarayana Durga State Forest

The area around Chinnagaradevara Betta is one of the most beautiful in the whole of Devarayana Durga state forest. In addition, this area is probably the least disturbed of all the areas of this reserve forest.

WANCer Ameen Ahmed who first visited this patch of forest in 1990 and WANCer Guru Prasad who has been frequenting this patch since mid-90s, fondly remember this area and often compare the vegetation to that of Bandipur and Mudumalai sanctuaries' undulating terrains.

A small foot path / track used to cut through the forest and connect the villages of Swandenahalli and Durgadahalli, a distance of 8 kilometres. Vehicles though, still have to take a circutous route for more than 15 kilometres to reach the other side of the forest. A couple of kilometres off the track between Swandenahalli and Durgadahalli lies a temple dedicated to lord Rangaswamy, popularly known as Chinnaga Rangaswamy temple. Devotees from Swandenahalli and nearby villages visit this temple within the forest boundaries and there is an annual jathra (religous gathering) of these devotees at the temple.

Since 2000 - 2001, this track has been broadened to accomodate 4- wheel vehicles. This has been widened, causing considerable disturbance to the forest.

In June 2007, WANCers Guru Prasad and Mallikarjun visited this region for bird watching and found to their shock that trees inside the forest were being felled, rocks being quarried and being carried away out of the forest. They came back and wrote a letter to the DCF Tumkur regarding the matter, along with pictures. Kindly see the pictures and the letter below to know more about this issue.

A view of felled trees and blasted rocks

Another view of the blasted rocks

A mature tree hacked
A view of the dense forest surrounding the path

A picture of forest destruction

The following are satellite images of above illegal roads inside Chinnaga area of Devarayanadurga state forest, built by Panchayat Raj Engineering Department (PRED) of Karnataka Public Works Department (PWD) in 2007.

The images have been sourced from Google Maps and stitched. Please click them to see the enlargement.

You can see the above satellite images live on google maps below:

View Larger Map

The following is the complaint letter by WANC member Mallikarjun to the Deputy Conservator of Forests (DCF), Tumkur Territorial Division.

Mallikarjun M
Tumkur City
Tel: 98863 85549

Deputy Conservator of Forests
Tumkur Territorial Division
Kunigal Road
Tumkur 5721 02
Date: June 12, 2007

Dear Sir,

Sub: Tree felling, blasting of rocks and forest destruction to build road inside Devarayana Durga state forest.

I am nature lover of Tumkur and a member of the conservation group Wildlife Aware Nature Club (WANC).

On June 7, 2007, during one of my routine birdwatching trips along with my club mate Sri. Guru Prasad, I visited Chinigara betta near Swandenahalli inside the north-western boundary of the Devarayana Durga state forest (as per Survey of India 1:50,000 Sheet 57 G/3, First Edition).

Sir, I was shocked to see trees being felled, rocks being blasted and the overall destruction on forestland, for the construction of a road to the Rangaswamy temple located inside the state forest boundary. I and other members of our club have been visiting this stretch of Devarayana Durga state Forest for the past 17 years now and never have we seen such destruction here. This beautiful path that was covered by trees and which we deeply love, has been damaged beyond recognition.

Apart from this, we also saw a tractor lifting the stones illegally from inside the forest and transporting them towards Swandenahalli village.

To prove my above claims, I am herewith enclosing a few pictures of the same.

Sir, I kindly request you:
1) to take immediate action to stop the construction of this road and the destruction of this stretch of Devarayana Durga state forest.
2) to take strict legal action against the perpetrators of these illegal activities under the preview of the existing Forest Conservation Act (1980) and also under the most Honourable Supreme Court of India’s order dated 12/12/1996 in the Godavarman Thirumalpad vs Union of India case.
3) to have a gate with lock installed on this path, to prevent unauthorised activities like stone quarrying from taking place inside the forest.

I hope you will do the needful.

Kindly feel free to contact me if you have any further questions.

Thanking you.

With you in conservation,

1. Assistant Conservator of Forests, Tumkur Territorial Sub-division, Kunigal Gate, Tumkur
2. Range Forest Officer, Tumkur Territorial Range, Kunigal Gate, Tumkur


Struggle to prevent destruction of Devarayanadurga forest from Devarayanadurga village road expansion (2001)

There are a few roads that pass through the boundaries of Devarayana Durga State Forest. Among these are

1) Tumkur City - Oordigere Road

2) The above road deviates at 8th mile stone and goes to Namadachelume

3) The road from Namadachelume leads to Durgadahalli

4) The road from Namadachelume also branches into one that leads to Devarayana Durga village

5) Just before Devarayana Durga village a road that branches from Oordigere - Koratagere Road and cuts into the forest, meets the road Namadachelume - Devarayana Durga road.

All these roads cause considerable disturbance.

In 2002 there WANC participated in a campaign to stop the destruction of prime yellothroated bulbul habitat due to the expansion of the road leading to Devarayana Durga village.

The following are some details from 2001:

Dear Nature Lovers,

The latest situation on ground is that the work has come to a halt inthe forest area. Noises though, are being made to resume it in the revenue land adjoining the reserve forest's boundary.

Members of WANC visited the site on 2nd June 2002. After oral requests failed to give results, on 6th June, WANC ex-Chairman Ameen Ahmed wrote a letter to the Deputy Conservator of Forests DCF (Tumkur Territorial Division) with a copy of the relevant Survey of India (SOI) Sheet of 1:50,000 scale. Copy of the letter was marked to the Conservator of Forests (CF) (Hassan Territorial Circle).

In response,

1. We got a reply (in Kannada) from the Range Forest Officer (Tumkur Territorial Range) on 12th June 2002 (No:VA AA KA: TUVA: A. Kra.Dooru: G.L:157:2002-03). He has stated that two cases were filed (not one as claimed below) against "driver of the Hitachi machine, its owner and convener of the Dharma Darshi committee (of Devarayana Durga Lakshminarasimha Swamy Temple)" who were responsible for the destruction. Again these were filed on 8th and 9th June 2002.

2. The Conservator of Forests (Hassan), wrote a letter to the DCF (Tumkur) dated 20-06-2002 (No:A3:Sibbandi:Viva 73:2001-02). Drawing the DCF's attention to my letter, he asked the DCF "to inspect the State Forest area that has been felled, the road that has been illegally constructed and to give a report regarding the same in the next correspondence".

3. Again the Hassan CF has written a letter to the Tumkur DCF on 5th August 2002 (No:A3: Sibbandi: Viva- 73: 2001-02). In this letter the CF has acknowledged the DCF's reply regarding this issue and has directed him to send our club the mainpoints of the Action Taken Report and reply to my original letter and to inform his (the CF's) office about this.

Much of the pressure was due to the local media and the letters sent by nature lovers from across the globe in response to our e-campaign. This includes one letter all the way from Cyprus! Facts from WANC's Status Survey report on Devarayana Durga (DD) forests and the Book on Medicinal Plants of Devarayana Durga Forests by Guru Prasad of WANC and Harish Bhat of CES and also the publicity of DD's Tiger sighting in 2002 helped the campaign very much.