BENGALURU: The proposed 2,000 MW Sharavathi Pumped Storage Hydroelectric project falls in the middle of the Sharavathi river valley. The project, first floated by the Siddaramaiah government, is now being pushed by the Yediyurappa government, overriding concerns of locals, environmentalists and forest officials.
Presently, the state government is seeking the Centre’s approval to enter the Sharavathi Valley Lion Tailed Macaque Sanctuary to carry out geotechnical investigations in 877.507 hectares of forest land in Sagar and Honnavar forest divisions. Only after this survey can it be ascertained whether such a project can be taken up in this area.
The proposed project site falls within the core area of an expanded sanctuary. Spread over an area of 902 sqkm, the Sharavathi Valley LTM Sanctuary is one of the few remaining habitats for the critically endangered macaques and the Myristica Swamps, that are endemic to this region. Local forest officials said that this project would ruin hundreds of acres of evergreen forests in Gersoppa Wildlife Range and Kargal Range.
Environmentalists said that the area was so remote that nobody has ventured to enter these forests. Environmentalist Akhilesh Chipli from Sagar said, “A mega project in the river valley will sound the death knell for the Sharavathi River which is the lifeline of Karnataka. The government should address the issue of transmission losses and reduce it from 18 to 8 per cent. This will meet the power needs during day time. They should make it mandatory for people to go for solar, LED and other energy-efficient devices.”
According to analysts from the power sector, this project is both economically and ecologically unsustainable. Analyst Shankar Sharma said, “To produce 100 MW of power, 124 MW of power will be spent to pump water from a lower to an upper reservoir. In fact, pumped storage power plants are meant to generate additional power required to meet demands during peak hours of the day only. Such a scheme will consume about 25 per cent more electricity than it generates. The state will suffer a net loss of power.”
Forest officials who are not in favour of this project say that Section 29 of Wildlife Protection Act says any kind of destruction in a sanctuary is prohibited unless it is necessary for the improvement and betterment of wildlife. However, the Karnataka State Wildlife Board, under BSY’s chairmanship recommended the project without any discussion. With the matter resting with the National Board of Wildlife, activists from Karnataka have appealed to the members not to give any permission for entry or survey.
An activist from Shivamogga said, “It was shocking as not a single board member raised any objections which will destroy habitats and endangered flora and fauna in the Sharavathi river valley. Any approval will allow KPCL to drill holes on the valley floor to undertake geotechnical studies.”