BENGALURU: In a major setback to forest conservation, the 2,000 megawatt hydro power Sharavathi Pumped Storage Project has received clearances for pre-construction activities in the forested areas of Shivamogga and Uttara Kannada districts.
Since the environmental impact of the project is pretty high, the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has asked for a detailed and thorough Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) study and report as per EIA, 2006, 2009 and also a public consultation involving people, experts, environmentalists and other concerned people.
The `4,862 crore underground powerhouse project requires a massive 150 hectares of dense evergreen and semi-evergreen forest lands out of the total 153 hectares. Further, abutting the project, is the Sharavathi Valley Wildlife Sanctuary which is home to exotic species including the endangered lion-tailed macaques, sloth bears, big cats and a host of mammals and reptiles. So, not just the environmental clearance but also forest and wildlife clearances are required for this project.
Based on the recommendations of the reconstituted Environment Appraisal Committee (EAC), the MoEF has given clear terms of reference for preparation of EIA report. Further, they have directed that the public hearing should be held district-wise at the site or in its closed proximity and the necessary amendments in the EIA report should be undertaken based on the public hearing.
The Sub Committee of the EAC which visited the Project Site in July this year had opined that the construction of the 4-km-long retaining wall on both sides of the river will obstruct the interaction between the forest and the river and further hinder the movement of wild animals. So after detailed deliberations, the project proponents agreed to shelve the proposal of construction of retaining walls. However, a written commitment needs to be submitted by them, the MoEF stresses.According to MoEF, hydro power is a clean source of energy and can be allowed in the eco-sensitive areas.
Loss will be irreparable
Sharavathi Pumped Storage Project is planned between existing Talakalale and Gerusoppa Reservoir, which is situated downstream of Linganmakki reservoir on Sharavathi. The project site will be located near Gerusoppa village. This project envisages to utilise the balance storage water for installation of 2,000 MW for six hours peaking. An underground powerhouse project, it will have 8 units of 250 MW each. Environmental activists from Sagar region said that with the project involving clearance of 150 hectares of forest, the environmental impact will be irreparable.