|Kali Bachao Andolan|
PRESS RELEASE - 05 JUNE 2003
KALI BACHAO ANDOLAN
PROTESTS IN BANGALORE ON WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY TO SAVE WHAT LITTLE IS LEFT OF THE KALI RIVER
Sunderlal Bahuguna launched the Kali Bachao Andolan in February this year. His message was simple. We worship rivers in this great land, and yet there isn’t a single river that is free of industrial and urban pollution. In Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Bengal, the holy Ganga has little to demonstrate of its ageless grandeur, whilst in the mountains it is dammed horrendously at Tehri. The story of Kali in the densely forested Uttara Kannada region of Karnataka is no different.
Kali is a short river that emerges in the high mountain ranges of the Western Ghats, in Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka. 184 kms. long, this river collects all the rich nutrients of the thick and extraordinary forest growth along its banks, rendering her waters black from the rich mulch; thus Kalinadi (meaning, black river). This most wondrous river of life, wherever it flows, supports dense forests, life.
Today there is very little of the Kali left. Six major dams, a nuclear power plant, and a paper mill have ensured that the glorious flow of this river down the mountains into the Arabian Sea is frequently stopped, submerging some of the best forests in the Western Ghats. The secrecy surrounding the Kaiga Nuclear Plant ensures that little is known about its polluting impacts on the river and the forests. But the pollution from the West Coast Paper Mills is there for all to see, at Dandeli.
Dandeli Dam never to be cleared:
The Uttara Kannada District Minister, and Government of Karnataka Industries Minister, Shri. R. V. Deshpande, is now vigorously pursuing clearance for the 7th dam at Dandeli. This dam is claimed as a “run of the river”, “mini-hydel” project, causing “little submergence”. In reality, however, 8 kms. of the last flowing stretch of this 184 kms. long river will be lost forever, and along with it 210 ha. of forests. This dam is proposed by the Murdeshwar Power Corporation Ltd. to generate 18 MW of electricity, at a cost of about Rs. 200 crores. Making the power generated from this dam the costliest ever! Present average for hydel stations ranges between Rs. 4 to 6 crores per MW of installed capacity.
Legally MPCL dam can never be accorded clearance. This is because the project proponents presented two fraudulent Environment Impact Assessments in a rushed attempt to secure environmental clearance for the project in the period of July - October 2000. The first was by Ernst and Young, which completely plagiarised the EIA of the Tattihalla Dam, proposed at the source of the Bedthi in neighbouring Dharwar district. Tata Energy Research Institute followed soon after with an EIA that provided environmental and ecological information unrepresentative of the Dandeli dam location. The Environment Impact Assessment Notification clearly mandates that projects with wrong, misleading and fraudulent data, presented twice, should be summarily rejected. The report of the Deputy Commissioner of Uttara Kannada on the 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”. Yet active plans exist to force clearance for the dam.
Pollution at Dandeli:
The West Coast Paper Mills at Dandeli, once brought here to help improve industrial and economic growth of the district, is today considered blight on the Kali. The effluents are discharged without treatment into the Kali, mucking up the river’s ecology, polluting fields and constantly affecting the lives of people, cattle and wildlife that depend on the river’s waters. Following persistent pressure from the Kali Bachao Andolan, the Asst. Commissioner of Uttara Kannada has initiated criminal proceedings against the company, but the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board has done little to utilize its regulatory powers and force the company into compliance.
Sand mining in the Supa submergence area is another serious threat to the river’s ecology. The entire mining exercise occurs at a rampant scale and is wholly illegal.
The irony of Uttara Kannada’s power generation:
Uttara Kannada consumes less than 20 MW of the over 1600 MW of electricity produced from hydel and nuclear sources in this district. This is a clear indicator of how little the district has gained, especially considering that over the decades 32,000 acres of forestland has been submerged for dams across Kali. Tens of villages have been displaced due to submergence but very little in terms of rehabilitation has ever been achieved.
Kali Bachao Andolan Padayatra now reaches Bangalore:
Kali Bachao Andolan is thereby a voice of collective protest from the children of the Kalinadi. They insist that enough damage has been done to the river, its people, its forests and wildlife. This river has to flow for posterity, they insist. Not dammed, polluted and left dying.
Pandurang Hegde led a Padayatra in February that coursed its way along the Kali and the response has been enthusiastic. But the people of the river feel very let down by the State Government that refuses to hear their voices. Compared with the high attention that the Kaveri and Krishna receive from the Krishna Government, hardly any attention has been paid to a river that is the most dammed in the country, and generates the highest hydel power (1200 MW) despite its short course.
Demands of the Kali Bachao Andolan:
As the 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 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.
In its memorandum to the Chief Minister of Karnataka, KBA has demanded:
Worldwide Appeal to the Chief Minister:
The demand of KBA has found overwhelming support from Utttara Kannada, many parts of the country and the world. Letters are pouring into the Chief Minister’s office urging him to comply with these demands. It is time that the Karnataka Government complied with these demands and secured the River’s ecological future, now and forever.
Pandurang Hegde, Parisara Samrakshana Kendra, Sirsi
Representatives of Kali Bachao Andolan