Greens cry hoarse over underground hydel project at Sharavathi

Question rationale of pumping water up from one dam to another

Greens cry hoarse over underground hydel project at Sharavathi

The Karnataka Power Corporation (KPC) is planning to undertake a 2,000-MW Rs 5,000-crore underground hydroelectricity project near the Sharavathi wildlife sanctuary in the taluk.

But environmentalists have strongly opposed the plan, saying it is coming up in an ecologically sensitive region. They have planned to move the court against the project.

The plan involves supplying water from the Gerusoppa reservoir in Uttara Kannada district by means of pipelines through underground tunnels to Talakalele reservoir, which is at a height of 480 metres. The water will be made to flow down in the reverse direction to generate electricity.

The union ministry of forests and environment gave its approval for pre-project works on August 9, much to the chagrin of the environmentalists.

Two tunnels, 3.8-km-long, will be dug at a depth of 312 metres. A 52-metre-tall, 22-metre-wide and 300-metre-long power station will also be constructed underground.

Greens have expressed concern that that 371 acres of protected forest in the Jog, Linganamakki and Aghanashini limits of the Western Ghats will be under threat.

Also, the project area is just 3.5 km away from the Sharavathi wildlife sanctuary and is an environmentally sensitive area. No new project can be taken up in such areas as per the recommendations of the Kasturirangan report.

The project site is part of evergreen forests, rich in biodiversity and home to priceless medicinal plants, besides animals like tiger, deer, leopard, bison and king cobra. The forest is also home to the lion-tailed macaque.  

Environmentalists point out that explosives will have to be used for the tunnel work. This may kill many creatures in the forests, they say. The greens feel that the KPC should have consulted local residents and organisations before going ahead with the project.

They say a lot of electricity has to be spent for pumping water from Gerusoppa reservoir to Talakalele reservoir. They question whether the same is worth it and wonder whether the target power production can be achieved.

They say much harm has already been caused due to existing hydel projects in the Sharavathi command area and people there reel under the effects of ecological imbalance. Environmentalists say all pros and cons should be looked into before going ahead with the new project in the Western Ghats. They want the project proponents to reconsider it.

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