|Kali Bachao Andolan|
6 MAJOR DAMS,
A NUCLEAR POWER PLANT, A PAPER MILL
To Hon’ble Chief Minister of Karnataka
Shri. S. M. Krishna
On the occasion of World Environment Day
June 5th, 2003
The 184 km long Kali River in the Uttara Kannada district of the Western Ghats region in Karnataka, already has 6 major Hydroelectric dams. In addition, the river supports the only nuclear plant in a forest in the world - the controversial Kaiga Nuclear Power Station. Over 1200 MW of power is already generated from these dams, and an additional 440 MW from Kaiga. There is now a serious attempt to build a 7th dam on the Kali River, near Dandeli, by Murdeshwar Power Corporation Limited (MPCL).
Dandeli Mini-Hydel Project of Murdeshwar Power Corporation Limited
The MPCL dam is proposed to generate only 18 MW of electricity. This at the cost of submerging 210 ha. of forests along the Kali and at a capital cost of approx. Rs. 200 crores. Whilst financially this makes the dam amongst the costliest ever built, the ecological cost due to loss of forests would be tremendous indeed. For, if the dam were allowed, the last stretch of Kali that is flowing undammed, will be lost for posterity. And the power that would be generated would be clearly unaffordable. In addition, the MPCL dam could possibly be expanded into a much larger dam that will hope to produce more electricity at the cost of even greater submergence and ecological damage.
Legally this project has to be abandoned. This is because the project proponent along with its consultants are guilty of presenting two fraudulent Environment Impact Assessments, one by M/s Ernst and Young, and thereafter by M/s Tata Energy Research Institute. Environment Support Group and Parisara Samrakshana Kendra exposed both frauds during 2000, and per the Environment Impact Assessment Notification, this is a case fit for rejection absolutely. The report of the Deputy Commissioner of Uttara Kannada on the basis of Environmental Public Hearing held in January 2001 clearly documents this view, and endorses the affidavit filed by Environment Support Group in this regard. Recently, the District Forest Officer in his recent report dated 19 February 2003 has stated that “this proposal is undesirable from the forestry point of view” and “(h)ence, it may be recommended to the Govt. for rejection”. The District Forest Officer has also found that the claims of the proponent that there are no forests in the submergence area is false, for this area constitutes an assemblage of moist deciduous and evergreen forests, supporting a range of wildlife, including the occasional tiger. Yet there is very high pressure to build this dam.
We wish to state that Shri. R. V. Deshpande, Karnataka Industries Minister, and Minister-in-charge of Uttara Kannada, is bearing enormous pressure on the clearance authorities to clear the project.
No more forest submergence due to dams on Kali - GOK Order:
Over the decades over 32,000 acres of forests have been submerged in this district to build the six dams, according to some estimates. This last stretch of the flowing Kali assumes a lot of importance when we appreciate the fact that it is mainly here that the last riverine stretch of original forest is left. Construction of the MPCL dam would also be in absolute violation of the 19th May 1987 Government of Karnataka order (No. FFD 242 FGL 83) that no further projects involving diversion of forest land for other uses will be undertaken on Kali River or its tributaries.
Latest Supreme Court decisions have upheld the spirit of this order.
Uttara Kannada – a major source of Power, and yet very little development:
Almost all the power that is generated from the district is exported to other regions. Uttara Kannada uses only 17 MW of the electricity produced. Many parts of the region languish in darkness. A brief overview of major power generating sources in Uttara Kannada and the installed capacity is provided below.
Clearly, the cry from the region of enough “development” by “dams” needs to be addressed. People of this district are tired of the constant threat of displacement, have witnessed with pain the submergence of some of the best forests in the Western Ghats, and now see the need to actively oppose any further plans to build projects that threaten their lives, forests and the wildlife.
Pollution by West Coast Paper Mills:
The West Coast Paper Mills at Dandeli has a dubious record of its pollution control management. The company is highly secretive, even as the result of their actions are there for all to see. Tens of acres of agricultural land is polluted by pulp waste, and the river’s ecology is all mucked up by the raw effluent discharged into it by the Mills.
For the communities who depend on this river, adverse impact of the accumulated pollutants has been tremendous. Losses in agriculture, dairy farming and fisheries are a common tale here, and cattle deaths are regularly reported. Farmers in direct contact with the water suffer from a variety of skin diseases caused due to pollution of the river. Very little is known of the impact on wildlife.
The concerned regulatory agency, the Karnataka Pollution Control Board has done very little to contain the damage, thereby allowing the Mills a free run on its polluting spree. Only recently, due to pressure from local communities under the banner of Kali Bachao Andolan, has there been some response with the local Assistant Commissioner initiating criminal proceedings against the company. The demand is not a closure of the Dandeli Paper Mills. Rather it is to get the mill to clean up its operations for the benefit of all – including the employees of the mill.
Illegal Sand Mining in the Supa Submergence area:
Hundreds of small barges and trucks are illegally employed daily by contractors in rampantly excavating sand from the Supa dam submergence area. This is most visible at Chandevadi. The result is serious disturbances to the river’s ecology. The people of the region are now pleading for an end to this unending misery.
Kali Bachao Andolan:
Parisara Samrakshana Kendra (PSK), along with several local community organizations and tribal villages, have formed the Kali Bachao Andolan in order to build awareness on the threats to the Kali River, and to stop further damming, pollution and sand mining. Pandurang Hegde, leading the Kali Bachao Andolan, and several others, conducted a Padayatra in February this year. Sunderlal Bahuguna, leader of the Chipko Andolan, launched this Padayatra. There has been overwhelming response from local communities to this effort. Environment Support Group (ESG), Bangalore, is an active support organization of the Kali Bachao Andolan.
Demands of the Kali Bachao Andolan:
As Karnataka State holds celebrations on World Environment Day, Kali Bachao Andolan has come to Bangalore, led by various tribal representatives from affected villages, to highlight that true commitment for the environment demands effective action. The symbolic protest at the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial to be held this morning is to highlight the little that the Karnataka Government has appreciated of Kali’s importance and the concerns of the people from the Kali Valley.
We fervently appeal that the demands of the Kali Bachao Andolan be endorsed in demonstrating your sincere commitment to the cause of environmental protection, and in ensuring environmental regulation is taken up with all seriousness. We appeal:
Worldwide Appeal to you:
The demand of KBA has found overwhelming support from Utttara Kannada, many parts of the country and the world. Letters and Emails are being sent to you from hundreds of concerned groups and individuals urging that you should endorse KBA’s demands. We enclose a copy of all those who have so far endorsed this appeal.
Sir, it is time that the Karnataka Government complied with these demands and secured the River’s ecological future, now and forever.
We thank you for your cooperation and support.
Pandurang Hegde, Parisara Samrakshana Kendra, Sirsi