Ambaragudda – The Unknown Biodiversity Heritage Site

Ambaragudda – What is it?

Ambaragudda is a hill in the Western Ghats range of Shivamogga district in Karnataka, India. It is a less-known place, but has a strange importance! This hill has been declared as the ‘Biodiversity Heritage Site’ by the Karnataka government in 2009. The reason behind this declaration, the protests, the process of declaration, and everything about Ambaragudda is interesting.

The Spark

Photo belongs to the author

According to the locals, a mining company started its operations way back in 1995. The iron ore-rich hill caught the attention of the company and they somehow lobbied to start mining. In the beginning they used to mine occasionally and in small scale. However, in 2005 they began mining on large scale. The locals were fine with it as their agricultural lands were not under threat if the initial news was to be believed. They had signed only for mining on a small part of the hills and this made them rest assured. However, when they realized that the company claimed that the locals had signed to allow a very large area for mining, they started panicking. The locals say they never signed on anything granting the company a larger area, but they were allegedly shown some documents with their signs!! This was the time for the local community to rise up and save their land. Raghaveshwara Bharati, the seer of Sri Ramachandrapura Mutt, Hosanagara, led a protest to save Ambaragudda and other hills around Kodachadri.

The road built for mining trucks

The road has become the path for rainwater, causing more damage

Biodiversity Heritage Site

A view from Ambaragudda

In 2009, with the recommendation of the Western Ghats Task Force, Ambaragudda was declared as a Biodiversity Heritage Site by the Government of Karnataka. This was the reason that prompted us to visit the site as we were curious to know about the biodiversity of this place. Fortunately, we had an expert in forestry with us in this trek to Ambaragudda. We observed that there were hardly any diversity in the tree species there. There is a patch of Shola forest mid-way, but not much in other parts. Some regeneration can be seen on the hill, though. We enquired the villagers about variety of fauna, but they said there aren’t many.

When we further probed, we realized that it was master stroke deployed by the government to avoid mining in the hills. Since it was proved to be a sensitive region by the scientists at Indian Institute of Science (IISc) and others, and considering the livelihood of local people, the Western Ghats Task Force recommended Ambaragudda to be declared as a biodiversity site. The government decided to take the step to save Ambaragudda and declared so in 2009. Since then there have been no activities on the hill and we can still witness the heaps of ore lying, the landslides where the roads were made, and the dug out valleys.

The Shola forest patch

How to Reach Ambaragudda

To reach Ambara gudda from Shivamogga, pass through Hosanagara, Nagara and Nittur. Taking a deviation from Nittur you will reach Nagodi (Please see the map). From Nagodi, a drive on country road for about 3 km will take you to the base of Ambara gudda hill. From there the vehicles cannot drive and you will have to trek for about 3 km to reach the top of Ambara gudda.