BENGALURU: The work for carrying out geotechnical studies has begun to ascertain the feasibility of the 2000 MW Sharavathi Pumped Storage Hydroelectric Project that falls in the Sharavathi Lion Tailed Macaque Sanctuary. Facing stiff opposition from greens and power experts, the State Government seems to be bent on implementing the project and so, taken up studies despite the pandemic and when monsoons are due in June.
The Chief Wildlife Warden (CWW) has laid down strict conditions for the survey. However, activists allege violations of certain conditions. Forest officials said the studies are being monitored strictly and once monsoons set in, the work will be stopped. With pre-monsoon showers last week, the pristine habitat of the critically endangered lion-tailed macaques (LTM) is now seeing breeding of a variety of species (hornbills) and germination of seedlings. But the initial work of transporting heavy machinery and dismantling it has started.
The machine parts are being carried on foot by workers to areas that have never been accessible to anybody in the Kargal range. Wildlife conservationist Akhilesh Chipli from Sagar said, “The clearance was given by the Chief Wildlife Warden on May 6 to drill 12 bore holes and there is inordinate pressure on the forest officials from KPCL to cooperate and overlook the conditions laid down by the CWW. In this terrain, how can one transport heavy machinery and therefore, we can see a vehicle being used. The vehicle no. is KA 41-A-8455 and it is being used inside the sanctuary limits.”
Speaking to TNIE, Mohan Kumar, deputy conservator of forests, Sagar (territorial), said, “We are ensuring that all conditions are fulfilled and once the monsoons starts, we will stop the work. They have taken a farmer’s house on rent in Henni village and the vehicle with the machinery is based there. We have not allowed any vehicle inside the sanctuary limits. In fact, we have ensured that all the 6-7 workers were tested for Covid-19 as they are from outside the State. We have to follow MoEF guidelines on Covid-19.”
The survey work took off on Tuesday with the user agency being adamant on carrying out studies during the pandemic when everybody is barred from entering the protected area. An expert said, “The government is least bothered that such a harmful study is being taken up in a sanctuary that was recently expanded for the protection of LTM.” The clearance for the studies was given by the State and National Board of Wildlife to ascertain whether it is feasible to take up this project as it entails clearance of pristine forests and felling of a large number of trees.
No tree felling
No vehicle usage
No disturbance to wildlife
Survey work between 9am-6pm
Carry heavy machinery manually
No erection of tents in sanctuary
No stay night for workers
No survey work in monsoon