BENGALURU: The State forest department has stopped geotechnical studies for the controversial 2000 MW Sharavathi Pumped Storage Hydel project. Amid protests, the survey was taken up just a week ago in the Sharavathi Wildlife Sanctuary. Wildlife and power experts had objected to these studies as also for taking up a project that may later see (if terrain found feasible) diversion of the pristine habitat of critically endangered Lion Tailed Macaques.
Mohan Kumar, DCF, Sagar Territorial Division, said, “The geotechnical survey and all related works too have been stopped in the sanctuary. Drilling was done only for one day. As one of the conditions of the survey was that no work can be permitted during the rainy season, all works were stopped.” Experts have raised objections to the survey work itself. Praveen Bhargav, Wildlife First and former member, National Board for Wildlife (NBWL), said,
“The Supreme Court had directed that the Lafarge Judgment Guidelines be complied with during the clearance process and ensure that fait accompli is strictly prevented. However, the permission granted for geotechnical studies is creating a potential fait accompli situation which flies against the SC guidelines.“
NBWL Standing Committee member Sukumar Raman said, “My understanding is that only the feasibility study was approved by the Standing Committee.
This will involve some investigations such as drilling rocks. The proposed hydel project itself has certainly not been approved. It is supposed to be an underground power plant. NBWL will examine it after the full proposal is sent to the ministry.” Shankar Sharma, power policy analyst, said the MoEF (Wildlife Division) in its 2012 notification issued a guidance document for taking up non-forestry activities in wildlife habitats.
Listing steps to be followed, it said after the Standing Committee recommends the proposal (for any non-forestry activities), the user agency must approach the SC for final clearance. In view of the monsoon, we had requested for stoppage and bringing the workers and equipment outside the sanctuary without causing damage to wildlife or biodiversity there.”