BENGALURU: THE issue over illegal electrification of five villages inside Bhimgad Wildlife Sanctuary in Belagavi district, under the ‘Prime Minister’s Mission Mode Programme’ has come to a close after a year-long battle between departments concerned and activists who raised a hue and cry over the illegal works that was taken up in this pristine tiger habitat.
Now, Hubli Electricity Supply Company (HESCOM) has filed a new proposal to take up electrification of four villages through solar power while for Hemmadaga village, where 160 electric poles have already been erected, they have sought clearance from the Centre as well as the state and central wildlife boards.
Wildlife activists say HESCOM’s decision is a big victory for wildlife conservation as it will set a precedent for implementation of such projects inside a protected area.
Pramod an activists said, “It’s a win-win situation for both people and wildlife. We are not against development but development work should be taken up within the prevailing laws. In this case, HESCOM had violated all forest and wildlife conservation laws and gone ahead. We have requested the forest department and MoEF to impose hefty penalties on HESCOM as well as disciplinary action against the officials concerned so that this should be a lesson for anyone and every one who pressurize the forest department and try to get their work done.”
Speaking to Express, Belagavi CCF, Krishna Udapudi said, “For Hemmadaga village where 160 poles had been installed violating rules, they have sought clearance from the Centre and the wildlife boards. Since it is a PM’s programme, their application may be considered. At the time of clearance, penalties may be imposed. Both state and central wildlife boards clearance is necessary as it is a project inside a protected area. For the other four villages, they have submitted a modified proposal for solar electrification. A report on this issue has already been submitted to the PCCF and Chief Wildlife Warden,” he added.
In September 2016 HESCOM, without any permission or sanction from the state forest department or the wildlife boards, started a project to provide power for five villages which were situated in the Bhimgad Wildlife Sanctuary. Around 160 electric poles were erected from Hemmadaga to Degaon without availing permission. Activists then blamed the forest department for their failure to stop this activity and lodged a complaint. Soon after this, forest officials held a series of meetings with HESCOM and instructed them to submit proposals to get approval under Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 in case, if they wanted to go ahead with the work. However, later, forest officials convinced HESCOM to go in for solar electrification for the remaining villages.