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May 27, 2005

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Archives Dated: 13 May 2005

Buddha to smile at Ramanagaram
Friday May 13 2005 00:00 IST

BANGALORE: Even as adventure lovers and greens cry foul over a 712-foot Buddha statue to be carved out of a rock near Ramanagaram, the Sanghamitra Foundation, which proposed the plan, has been sanctioned 10 acres of the reserve forest land.

The foundation is busy raising Rs 32 lakh to purchase the land. When the amount is paid, the forest land with a single rock measuring 1050 feet will be handed over to the foundation.

Forest, Environment and Ecology Minister Gurupadappa Nagamarapalli had recently said the foundation had not applied for the forest land for the project. The foundation, however, has worked under his nose to get the land sanctioned.

The project took shape in 2001 when the foundation submitted an application to the Forest Department for carving out a Buddha statue at Handigondi near Ramanagaram. Since it was a protected area, the department forwarded the application to the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests. Three months ago, the ministry gave its preliminary consent to the project. According to the terms of the consent, the foundation has to pay Rs 3.2 lakh for each acre to be purchased from the Forest Department.

Bangalore Rural District Deputy Conservator of Forests Shanthakumar has confirmed the sanction of land to the foundation.

Since the Forest Department is losing 10 acres, the Bangalore Rural DC has sanctioned 10 acres to the department at Lakkojanahalli, besides Rs 55,000 for an afforestation programme in the new land, Shanthakumar said.

Ramesh of the Sanghamitra Foundation said that after getting the preliminary permission, the organisation was mobilising Rs 32 lakh to purchase the land. Asked why his organisation was bent on carving out a Buddha statue in the same premises despite protests, Ramesh said the foundation's objective was to spread world peace through the statue.

A World Religion Centre would be set up in the premises and after carving out the statue, the foundation would plant trees to preserve the environment, Ramesh argues.

``The land we are purchasing is located on the fringes of the forests. The Handigondi forests are spread over 10,000 acres and carving out a Buddha statue on one side will not affect the natural habitat,'' he says. ``We will not have commercial activity in the premises. We won't do anything that would harm the environment.''

Ramesh, however, has no answer when asked if the birds which live in the natural habitat around Handigondi would be affected by the project.

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