Govt okays Gundia project

The contentious power plant has received the green signal from the 12-member expert appraisal panel, set up by the Union environment and forest ministry, after the state government agreed to drop big Hongadahalla dam from the 400 MW power plant.

Dropping the storage dam from the project means the power plant can run only during the rainy season when there is sufficient water in a small dam (Bettakubri) and three barrages (Yatthinahole, Kereholi and Hongadahalla)

Sources in Karnataka Power Corporation Limited have confirmed that two 200 MW power plants in Gundia would only operate during the rainy season.

The KPCL officials, however, did not clarify how the hydel plant – proposed to be built at a cost of Rs 800 crore – will be financially viable if it operates only for a few months in a year.

The central panel’s nod has come after it was convinced with the KPCL’s plan of dropping the Hongadahalla dam, which will reduce the land requirement by more than 50 per cent. If the storage dam is deleted from the project map, land requirement comes to 478.96 hectare from the original plan of 1041.

The Gundia project was controversial from the word go as it envisaged destruction of pristine forests in the Western Ghats – one of the world’s bio-diversity hotspots.

In fact, soon after taking over,  Union environment minister Jairam Ramesh wrote to the Chief Minister drawing his attention to drowning of almost 1900 acres of thick forests due to this project and the hastiness of the state in laying the foundation stone without obtaining the environment and forestry clearance.

The EAC approval is not the last word on the project. The final decision would be taken by Ramesh eventually.

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