Chamundi Hill ropeway plan in Mysuru resurfaces, green activists maintain opposition

A decision will be taken only after a thorough evaluation of pros and cons, state tourism minister HK Patil stated

By Coovercolly Indresh
Published: Friday 02 February 2024
Chamundeswari temple is situated on the top of Chamundi Hill. Photo: Coovercolly Indresh

As discussions over the controversial ropeway project to Chamundi Hill in Mysuru district, Karnataka have resurfaced for the fifth time, environmental experts are again sharing concerns about the project’s potential impact on the environment, ecology and local communities. The project was proposed to boost tourism in the district.

A definitive decision on the project will likely be reached only after a comprehensive evaluation of its advantages and disadvantages, state tourism minister HK Patil said on January 27, 2024. “We will conduct a thorough analysis of the project, evaluating its potential impact on the local environment and ecosystem, before arriving at a decision. Consultations will also be held with Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and District Minister HC Mahadevappa,” he said. 

Patil underlined the importance of seeking input from experts to assess the feasibility of the ropeway project, particularly from a heritage conservation perspective. The minister’s statements, however, have attracted sharp criticism from environmentalists over their potential impact on local ecosystems

Siddaramaiah recently announced the Congress-run state government’s renewed interest in reviving the ropeway project during a visit to the city in December 2023. The proposal had been shelved by the previous government led by the Bharatiya Janata Party over 17 months due to strong opposition by environmentalists.

The CM urged environmentalists not to oppose it this time. He conveyed, “We have introduced several schemes beneficial to the tourism sector. Initially, I envisioned constructing the ropeway atop Chamundi Hill to attract more tourists. Unfortunately, the proposal encountered severe opposition. Nevertheless, we remain prepared to proceed with the ropeway, provided there is no opposition.”

Read more: Mountain of faith: Mysuru’s famous Chamundi Hill is crumbling

Siddaramaiah also acknowledged the role of the hotel industry in promoting tourism and highlighted the success of the Shakti scheme. 

Members of Chamundi Betta Ulisi Samithi (save Chamundi Hill committee) expressed their concerns to the CM. Environmental activists argued that the ropeway would have a detrimental impact on the environment, leading to ecological imbalance.

Chamundi Hill must remain a sacred site, the activists said, emphasising the preservation of ecology and public sentiment against the project. The previous opposition asserted that the hill should be maintained as a site for worship and pilgrimage rather than being transformed into a tourist attraction.  

In the past, the project faced opposition from various quarters, including Pramoda Devi Wadiyar of the erstwhile Mysuru royal family, writers Devanura Mahadeva, SL Bhyrappa and others. The previous government had abandoned the project, citing Chamundi Hill’ status as a pilgrimage centre. 

The Samithi highlighted that experts, including structural engineers, hydrologists, environmentalists and forest department officials, submitted reports to the state government, outlining the potential damage to the Hill if the project is pursued. Additionally, Bhyrappa wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, urging him to get the project dropped.

The Samithi supports tourism promotion activities, but opposes the project specifically for Chamundi Hill, Samithi member and noted heritage expert N S Rangaraju told this reporter. “I proposed exploring ropeway projects in the Ramanagara Hill and Madhugiri Monolithic Hill in Tumakuru district, emphasising their suitability for such initiatives and potential to boost tourism,” he said. 

Read more: ‘Save Chamundi Hill’ campaign in Mysuru gains momentum

The ropeway for Chamundi Hill was previously suggested in 2005, 2012 and 2015. In 2005, Association of Concerned and Informed Citizens raised objections, followed by Mysore Grahakara Parishat in 2012, and a joint campaign by MGP and Society for Empowerment of Voluntary Association in 2015.

Environmental and heritage concerns have often highlighted potential adverse effects on the natural habitat of Chamundi Hill forest due to the clearance of a 2-kilometre-long, 10-metre-wide strip of forest land. Additionally, the construction and operation of the ropeway are expected to reduce green cover, cause noise and air pollution and contribute to garbage accumulation on the hillside.

The lack of a comprehensive feasibility study, including economic considerations, has been a recurring issue. The absence of calculations for the internal rate of return to assess profitability, along with overlooking factors like capital cost, passenger forecasts and operational costs, have also questions about the viability of the project.

While a ropeway may be suitable for inaccessible areas, the proposed Chamundi Hill ropeway is questioned for its necessity. The existence of alternative transportation methods, such as roads and heritage steps, renders the need for a ropeway for tourists questionable.

Calls for a comprehensive Feasibility Report and an Environment Impact Assessment, including the impact on wildlife, have been emphasised. The proposal’s potential economic and environmental costs, as well as the permanence of damage to the sensitive ecology, have prompted demands for the Karnataka government to permanently drop the Chamundi Hill Ropeway proposal in the best interest of Mysuru’s heritage and environment.

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