BENGALURU: The Centre has rejected a second mini hydel project on Cauvery river which was falling in the eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) of Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary in Mandya district. Pioneer Power Corporation Ltd, a private company, had tried to push the project by renaming it twice (Shivanasamudra and Gagganachukki), hoping to get permission despite being located in an area that was notified as ESZ on September 11, 2017. Earlier, the project was rejected twice by state wildlife board.
In a major victory for green cause, the Basaveshwara Mini Hydel Project of 24.75 MW generation capacity has been rejected by the Regional Empowered Committee (REC), Ministry of Environment and Forests. After detailed deliberations, the REC said, “Combined with the existing Ranganathaswamy Mini Hydel Project that is already generating 24.75 MW, it will have together generated 49.5 MW of power, thereby, attracting environmental clearance under EIA Notification, 2006.”
Further, based on the decision and numerus observations of the Karnataka State Board of Wildlife which had rejected the project, the REC has recommended that the unutilised forest land (0.497 hectare area) held by Pioneer Power Corporation Ltd in the Ranganathaswamy Mini Hydel Project should be taken back by the state Forest department forthwith and boundaries of the forest land utilised for this project should be clearly demarcated with concrete pillars fixed on the boundary. The state government needs to take up this matter in a serious manner, they have stressed.
Expressing serious concern on location of such projects in ESZ areas of wildlife sanctuaries, a wildlife activist said, “This is an area that is already severely fragmented, with eight projects located here. This project requires diversion of water from the Cauvery river stream, obstructing the natural flow of water, while the infrastructure for the project would have led to more disturbance in an already disturbed area. With the rejection of this project, we hope action is taken soon to recover the excess forest land from the company.”
Despite the project being rejected by the State Board of Wildlife twice (2013, 2015), the private company is alleged to have lobbied hard to enhance the power generation capacity in an area which is already witnessing severe human-elephant conflicts.
The Basaveshwara mini hydel project was proposed to be located in an area rich in wildlife. The existing Ranganathaswamy Mini Hydel project has already caused considerable damage to the fragile forest habitat and fragmented the habitat of elephants, experts say.