The Yettinahole project has been designed to supply drinking water to dry areas of districts like Hassan and Tumakuru and involves diverting water from the catchment of the west flowing Netravati river and pumping it in four stages across the ridge during the rainy season. The pumped water will flow east through 220 km long pipes under pressure of gravity and be stored in several tanks in the areas it is meant to serve. A reservoir too will be built mid-way. While the pipelines will be laid taking care of the crossing of wild animals in forests, nearly 14 hectares of forest land will be used for the project, sacrificing thousands of trees.
Environmentalists approached the National Green Tribunal (NGT) against the project on the ground that diversion of the Netravati river will deplete it of nearly 21 tmc of its 420 tmc of water, impact biodiversity enroute and the livelihood of the fishing community dependent on it. Agricultural production in the command area of the Netravathi may also be impacted in poor rainfall years, they warned.
The objections were examined by the NGT , but the project was cleared with a direction for research on some of these issues of public concern. But there is little doubt that the loss of 14 hectares of wooded areas will have an impact on rainfall and the water yield as large scale deforestation in the Cauvery catchment has already resulted in depleting flow of water in this river in summer.
But on the other hand, people in dry districts are in distress and the authorities need to supply them drinking water. It is true that the Western Ghats are the mother of several rivers and any deforestation will have disastrous consequences, including lowering of water yield. But we are in a catch 22 situation and cannot deprive the communities in dry districts of drinking water.
BK Singh is former Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Karnataka,...