Sharavathi project could sink Deccan Mahseer

Troubled waters

Deccan Mahseer was recently declared state fish.

The near-endangered Deccan Mahseer, recently declared state fish, may have a new threat: the Sharavathi pumped storage project.

The project, which has run into controversy over the proposal to set up power generators in the fragile Western Ghats, could also threaten the fish. 

The Rs 5000-crore project seeks to generate electricity by pumping water from Talakalale reservoir to Gerusoppa reservoirs, situated downstream of Linganamakki reservoir and about 3.5 km from the Sharavathi Valley Wildlife Sanctuary. The Karnataka Power Corporation Limited (KPCL) proposed the project to bridge the gap in power supply.

While activists have already raised concerns about the dangers posed by the underground power generators, the expert appraisal committee of the Ministry of Environment and Forests has cautioned that the pumping of water may affect the fish.

“As the reservoir acts as a balancing reservoir, there would be fluctuation of water level of 1-2 metres during peaking period. A study on the impact on Deccan Mahseer be carried out, including the impact during the spawning period,” the committee has said.

Deccan Mahseer entered the red list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature in March 2011 following a large-scale decline in its population due to over-exploitation. At the same time, the fish is endemic to Western Ghats, which is under increasing pressure from development projects.

A member of the State Wildlife Board — which recently gave its assent for the preparation of a detailed project report by drilling about 15 borewells in the area — said they will insist the KPCL follow directions of the expert committee.

“Though hydroelectric projects are considered cleaner when compared with thermal plants, the site of the project and the threat to wildlife make it complicated,” he said.

KPCL Managing Director V Ponnuraj said the environment impact assessment (EIA) report will throw light on the impact on wildlife.

“We have just received the nod to prepare the DPR. Steps will be taken to ensure there is no negative impact on the environment,” he said.

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