The Planning Commission’s expert committee headed by K Kasturirangan has finally felt the heat of environmental pressure groups that are fighting against the Nethravati river diversion project and two other hydro projects proposed in the Western Ghats.
The committee on Tuesday visited the hydro projects at Gundia and Yettinaholay, where the members of the pressure groups met the committee and represented their objections and observations.
Armed with the report of the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP), the groups insisted that all the three projects should be shelved by the government. They particularly highlighted the impact of the Yettinaholay hydro project, which has been proposed to come up at the mouth of the proposed garland canal for the Nethravati river-diversion project.
“The WGEEP report drafted by Madhav Gadgil committee has already pointed out that the Western Ghats is left with only 16% forest cover. Taking up these three projects will further reduce the forest cover to irreparable levels. Furthermore, the loss of wildlife habitat will push many species to the brink of extinction,” Hemmige Mohan, leader of the environmental groups of Hassan said after meeting the expert committee.
Mohan added that the garland canal project and the hydro electric project at Yettinaholay will also inflict great losses in terms of destruction of evergreen forests.
“To execute the project, roads will have to be laid for the machinery to move to the project site. It will fragment many perennial rivulets and water bodies that are important for sustaining the hydro-morphological profile of the Western Ghats. In the long run, both Hassan and Dakshina Kannada districts will be rendered dry if these projects come up,” Mohan said.
All the three projects will also fragment elephant corridors, mainly the one between Brahmagiri and Pushpagiri peaks.
“We do not know if the tiger habitat would also be disturbed. We are studying that aspect too,” one of the conservationists said.
Former MLA Vijaykumar Shetty, who met Kasturirangan in Mangalore, had appealed to him to advise the government to shelve the Nethravati river diversion project, which is now called Yettinaholay project.
“Yettinaholay was the main tributary to the Nethravati river throughout the year, but in recent times the inflow into the Nethravati river from Yettinaholay has decreased drastically, resulting in the river drying up in early February, plunging the city of Mangalore into water scarcity.
“If more hydro projects come in the Western Ghats, the sweet water dumping into the Arabian sea will also be reduced drastically, leading to the increase of salinity of the sea, which will affect the marine life,” Shetty said.
Kasturirangan assured the groups that he and his group were there to study the situation arising out of hydro projects in the Western Ghats in the backdrop of the WGEEP report and the expert group will not take any view without consulting the stakeholders and the suggestions of the other states that share the Western Ghats.