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The Hindu on : Environmentalists opposed to Bedti Project

Online edition of India's National Newspaper on
Monday, November 13, 2000

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Environmentalists opposed to Bedti Project

By R.S.Habbu

KARWAR, NOV. 12. Magod, a remote village in Yellapur taluk, is in the news again. It was here that the karnataka Power Corporation Limited (KPCL) planned to build a 111-metre high dam across the Bedti river to generate power, as early as in 1978-79. However, the project was opposed time and again by the villagers and environmental groups on the ground that it would damage the ecology of Bedti Valley, which was know for its rich bio- diversity and displace a large number of families. Now again, environmentalists are up in arms against the move of the KPCL to take up the project.

The Bedti-Aghanashini Valley Protection-Committee headed by Sri Gangadharendra Saraswati Swamiji of Sri Swarnavalli Math has organised a rally of villagers on November 14 at Magod to oppose the Bedti project. Mr. Anna Hazare well-known social activist and reformer will participate in the rally.

According to Mr. Anam Hegde Asisar, Secretary of Bedti- Aghanashini Valley Protection-Committee, the swamiji will camp at Chandaguli Temple on the banks of the Bedti on November 13 and offer a special pooja at the Sri Vinayaka Temple there before attending the rally the next day.

The history of anti-Bedti project movement can be traced to 1980- 1981. A prolonged agitation followed by a seminar on the Bedti, its valley and its ecological assessment, forced the then Chief Minister, the late Gundu Rao, to stay the implementation of the project.

But in 1992, when the KPCL revived its earlier proposal to build the dam, the Bedti-Aghanashini Valley Protection Committee was formed under the guidance of Sri Swarnavalli Swamiji.

A mammoth rally was held at Magod in September 1992 to protest against the establishment of the Bedti Hydel Project, which was expected to submerge 10,000 hectares of forest and agricultural land. The swamiji held a padayatra for five days through the villages in the valley to create awareness among the villagers.

The Union Ministry for Environment and Forests withdrew its approval to build the project after a delegation, led by Mr. Ramakrishna Hegde, Gundu Rao, Mr. H.D.Deve Gowda, Mr. R.V.Deshpande and Mr. Dhananjay Kumar, met the Union Minister in October 1992.

Then again the KPCL gave a new proposal in which the height of the dam was brought down to 77 metres.

In 1995-96, the KPCL again suggested a run-of-the river scheme and formed a committee headed by Mr. Chelvaraj, who was an adviser to the U.N. Under the scheme, 16 mini-dams were proposed across the Bedti at different points.

The Government signed a memorandum of understanding with private companies to build six mini dams, but environmentalists opposed the project again pointing out that it would also cause ecological imbalance in the valley. A meeting between the promoters of the project and the environmental groups ended in a chaos.

On October 24, 1997, a rally was organised at Agsur village near Ankola to oppose the scheme. As a result, the Government cancelled the MoU with private companies to build the project.

Mr. Hegde said the KPCL had not given up the Bedti Project. It has now finalised another proposal to establish two generators with an installed capacity of 150 MW each. Moreover, it proposes to augment the Kali Hydel project by diverting the waters from the Bedti to the Tattihalla Reservoir by building a dam across the Bedti at Kirvatti village.

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