The reserve forest area of Chamundi Hills, in Mysore, is set to turn into gardens with plans to have different species of fruit-bearing and flowering trees, and other trees. The Karnataka Forest Department’s three-year Rs 5 crore project has been progressing on the sly for about six moths.
In all, about 50 acres of the reserve forest has been cleared to develop a ‘Deva Vana’ (garden of Gods), one of the five gardens to be developed for specific purposes and nurture “rare varieties” of plants, including those to be brought from the Himalayas.
These ‘Vanas’ or gardens will be inter-linked with roads, and amenities like toilets and canteens, apart from a 17.18 km pathways for walking and a nursery.
Presently the 1,516 acre reserve forest area is a treasure house of fauna and flora consisting of rare plants, birds, butterflies and animals, playing a critical role in maintaining the urban eco-system of Mysore.
Its flora comprises trees, shrubs, herbs, climbers, creepers, grass, ferns, parasites, and epiphytes. It is endowed with a good vegetation of the thorn-scrub jungle type interspersed with small uncommon trees. Several natural flowers grow in abundance. Sandalwood, yellow silk cotton are among the trees growing here.
The faunal wealth comprises of a variety of insects, birds, snails, lizards and mammals. There are numerous varieties of birds and butterflies, and are the most conspicuous. They have built their own eco-system to sustain themselves amidst the natural ponds.
Human intervention could pose a threat to this rich variety of flora and fauna, some of which were developed by seed broadcasting about two decades ago to enhance green coverage in the rocky parts of the hills.
Forest Minister C H Vijayashankar yesterday inspected the Deva Vana work in progress, and was accompanied by forest officials and explained the features of the project of converting the forest area into ‘Vanas’ with different names to reporters.
Conservator of Forests Ravi said, about 670 local varieties trees had been identified in the hills. In addition to 1,516 acres, the Deputy Commissioner had transferred 216 acres of Nehru Loka area to the Department.
Defending the project, the minister said only Nilgiri trees or eucalyptus trees, planted under the plantation work, were removed. “There will be no scope for monoculture in future. Fruit-bearing trees will help bird life. Rare ayurvedic herbs will be planted. The intention is to bring the entire hill area under green cover. To prevent encroachments chain-linked fencing will be provided.”
He said, the forest department has no legal hold on Chamundi Hill Panchayat area where several structures are coming up. The minister had no answer to the large-scale encroachments that had taken place in the buffer area and in the foothills, and the structures and layouts coming up except saying, “We will examine.” However, he claimed the surveyed reserve forest area was “intact”.
An official present there quipped: “Once human intervention takes places, the rest will follow.”