BENGALURU: Environmental activists working to halt the Sharavathi power project, plan to appeal to the court after the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, in blatant disregard of environmental norms gave fresh clearance to the Sharavathi underground pumped project of 2017, in a letter sent to the chief engineer of KPCL.
In the letter, the ministry states that the proposed project is located a mere 3.4 km from the Sharavathi Wildlife Sancturary, in Sagar taluk of Shivamogga district, and will acquire 153 hectares of land, of which 150 hectares is forest land, home to the endangered lion-tailed macaque. Fresh clearance for pre-construction activities at the proposed site was accorded without directing that a public consultation must be held with people affected by the project, as required by the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA), 2006 and the 2009 amendment.
In an official letter addressed to the chief engineer, Karnataka Power Corporation Ltd the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change in 2017 gave a fresh clearance to the Sharavathi pumped storage project.
“Based on the recommendations of the Environment Appraisal Committee (EAC), the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, hereby accords a fresh clearance for pre-construction activities at the proposed site as per the provisions of the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification, 2006 and subsequent amendment, 2009…,” the letter reads.
According to the EIA notification 2006, it is imperative to have public consultation of the local affected people and others who have plausible stake in the environmental impacts of the project.
The clearance did not quote the wildlife board anywhere in the letter. The ministry in Terms of Reference (ToR) said that the issues discussed in the public hearing/consultation should be incorporated in the EIA report.
However, according to activists, there has been no public consultation of the project.
The ministry itself acknowledges that the underground powerhouse requires 153 hectares of land, of which 150 hectares is forestland and the proposed site is located 3.4 km from the Sharavathi Wildlife Sanctuary.
“No public consultation was done. The government should first have public consultation and take opinion of experts in the field of forest, ecology and power. There are alternative and economically viable options in wind and solar power. 150 hectares of pristine forest lands will be ravaged. This is ecologically and economically disastrous,” said Joseph Hoover a wildlife activist.
Referring to a 2013 report on the Western Ghats by the High Level Working Group (HLWG), headed by Dr Kasturirangan, the ministry said, “Hydro Power brings a relatively clean source of energy and has been recommended to be allowed in the Environmentally Sensitive Area (ESA) by the HLWG subject to stringent conditions.”
Criticising the union ministry, the activist said that the government has taken parts of the Kasturirangan report which it has found palatable.
A former forest officer commented that the area is a wildlife sanctuary and the project will rip apart the pristine Western Ghats....