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A Blog Post


I write this from the upper berth of a fifteen-hour sleeper bus. The past few weeks have been some of the most eye opening, chaotic, inspiring, and action-packed days in my entire life.

The Cauvery River - South India's freshwater lifeline
The Cauvery River – South India’s freshwater lifeline


I returned to Kodagu on a second trip to collect final shots for the film and in the process I was shocked by the changes I saw. Not far from SAI Sanctuary major development projects set in, including the construction of a 400kv power line – taking fifty thousand trees, bisecting reserved forest, and providing power to the southern state of Kerala.

Power company levels the land, despite community protests
Power company levels the land, despite community protests
Road widening for power line project
Road widening for power line project


Demonstrations to protect both public and private canopy resounded in the streets. Farmers, students, wildlife organizations, and other downstream beneficiaries came from Mysore and surrounding areas to join a collective voice in protest. At its core, the action was stemming from the fact that the Cauvery River – fueling 600 major industries in 4 states for 80 million people – depends on Kodagu in forest, where it originates.

"Save nature - Protect Farmers - Stop the power project - Save the lands of farmers"....
“Save nature – Protect Farmers – Stop the power project – Save the lands of farmers”….

It was incredible to see such energy coming from the community and more than anything it highlighted the urgency of the issue and the fragility of this landscape.

“Kodagu, which had about 86% of its land under forest cover in the late 1970’s, now has a mere 16%. If things continue in this way, we may end up with no forest in Kodagu by 2025″ – NGO Wildlife First 

During this time, I had an unfortunate run-in with the power company while filming. They filed a complaint with the Indian forest department and police. My phone was tapped, a search team was on my tail, and my only option was leave the country or face the investigation to try and clear things up. After having traveled 20 hours north on an over night bus under the recommendation to not make myself physically available, I got a good lawyer and went back down. I can say now that it was a joyful 31st of December, I did not end up in jail, my drone was not confiscated, and everything was resolved, case closed. After meeting with many of the investigators, showing them my work, and clearly stating my purpose, I was offered their assistance in getting future permits to film in the region. This project continues to teach me so much and for that I can thank all of you for giving your support and making this experience possible.

http://www.deccanchronicle.com/150102/nation-current-affairs/article/private-drone-alarms-bengaluru-cops-during-protest-rally A not-so-accurate account of the case. The date is wrong and they failed to mention the other potential routes for the power line, including the possibility of it going underground.

Within this larger context, private forests like SAI Sanctuary play an increasingly important role. I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to capture this beautifully forested ecosystem and the story behind the many dedicated years it took to establish. With that…. I would like to share with you the Official Trailer of the SAI film –

It is exciting to see the story coming together; one that I have dreamed of telling since the first time I visited the sanctuary 5 years ago. Stay tuned in the coming months for the final version, there is more work to be done! In the meantime I am always open to discuss and I would love to hear thoughts/comments/questions.

1 Comment
  • Raghu on March 3, 2015

    Hi Melissa,

    Great job! I would wait to see the full version of the movie.


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