Villagers unaware of river diversion

Some families have stopped cultivating fearing submersion, acquisition of land

Villagers unaware of river diversion

“Though I have two acres of land and my family members were cultivating coffee, cardamom, chillies and paddy, we have stopped cultivating cardamom and paddy as there are rumours that there are plans to construct dams to supply water to Kolar it seems,” says Devraj (54), a resident of Kadagarahalli, on the banks of Kerihole in Sakleshpur taluk.

“We don’t have any problems, if officials take water through big pipes. But if they stop water by constructing dams, then our land will be submerged and we will lose our land,” says Vishwanath (45), a resident of Aaluvalli, near Yetthinahole, also in Sakleshpur.

Kerihole and Yetthinahole are two of the eight spots identified for construction of weirs to supply water to Kolar and Chikballapur districts, at an estimated project cost of Rs 8,323 crore.

In fact, the decision of Chief Minister Siddaramaiah to earmark Rs 1,000 crore for “the scheme for diversion of flood water from Sakleshpur (west) to Kolar / Chikballapur district (east)” in the recent budget has stirred a hornest’s nest.

Interestingly, besides Devraj and Vishwanath, most of the villagers whom this correspondent spoke, are not aware of what is exactly in store for them, as none of the officials have informed them anything about the project, though offcials concerned are busy implementing the project.

In fact, a number of villagers at Aluvalli and Kadagarahalli (which has more than 200 families) were not aware of any developments (except that government has plans to construct dams to supply water to Kolar and Chikballapur) with regard to the river diversion project. The visit to the villages were organised by Dakshina Kannada District Press Club to Yetthinahole, Kerihole and Rakshidi, where weirs are proposed to be constructed. The other five weirs are proposed to be constructed at Hongadahalla, near Kadamane Estate (3 locations) and another at downstream Yettinahole.

Interestingly, huge pipes and markings at Yetthinahole are lying as mute witness to Gundia Hydro Electric Project (GHEP), where the KPCL officials had laid foundation during B S Yeddyurappa’s term. The spot, where the first weir of GHEP was supposed to come up, is now all set for the 8th weir in the proposed Yetthinahole project.

Stating that the government itself has violated the law, Malenada Janapara Horata Samithi President Kishore Kumar Hongadhalla said that the people of the region have been kept in the dark.

Regretting the fact that a vast forest area would be damaged besides disturbing the elephant corridor, quoting experts, Kishore said that though the Project intends to supply 24 TMC of water, in reality, not more than 9 TMC water is available in the region.

Terming the move as “votebank politics,” he said the project could prove disastrous to the ‘biodiversity hotspot’ besides wasting crores of public money for a few corrupt people’s greed.

EIA not required!

Whatis more baffling is the fact that the entire project (which may cross Rs 20,000 crores when implemented) which may cause irrepairable damage to the Western Ghats, one of the 8 hotspots for biodiversity conservation in the world, has already obtained Environmental Clearance by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF).

According to an RTI application National Institute of Technology Karnataka (NITK) Department of Applied Mechanics & Hydraulics Chairperson Prof S G Mayya, who has studied the feasibility report and specialised in Water Resources Engineering, the Karnataka Neeravari Nigam Limited has replied that the project does not require environmental clearance as the project is pertaining to “drinking water supply scheme which does not attract the provision of Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) scheme.”

Terming the entire process as a gross violation of environmental rules, Kishore said that any project with higher than 25 MW capacity comes under the purview of EIA Notification 2006 and will have to be considered for Environmental Clearance by the Expert Appraisal Committee of the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF). “Though the project requires 375 MW of power, which is 15 times higher than the maximum capacity (25 MW) allowed without EIA, the move is ridiculous on the part of authorities concerned,” Kishore said. Hettur Devraj, one of the leaders who spearheaded the movement against Gundia Hydro Electric Project (GHEP), stressed the need to create awareness on the project among villagers. Terming the entire project as “work done in haste by unemployed engineers without concern for land,” he said the problems and needs of people in Malnad and plains are different, which the authorities concerned fail to understand.

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