|Kali Bachao Andolan|
Kali Bachao Andolan
PRESS RELEASE: 23 September 2003
DANDELI DAM PROPOSAL ABANDONED: SAYS KARNATAKA INDUSTRIES MINISTER DESHPANDE
KARNATAKA POLLUTION CONTROL BOARD TO ‘STRICTLY REGULATE POLLUTION OF KALI RIVER’
Karnataka’s Industries Minister Shri. R. V. Deshpande confirmed that the proposal to build the 7th dam across Kali at Dandeli had been abandoned in the ecologically sensitive Uttara Kannada district. He confirmed that this action had become invariable, as the Deputy Commissioner of Uttara Kannada rejected the proposal on the basis of an Environmental Public Hearing held during January 2001. Subsequently the Karnataka Forest Department had also rejected the proposal from the point of view of submergence of a unique riverine forest. Mr. Deshpande made this clarification in a meeting with various representatives of Kali Bachao Andolan who met with him on 20 September 2003, as part of a their campaign meeting in Bangalore.
It may be recalled that the Dandeli Mini Hydel Project was cleared in Karnataka’s Global Investors Meet held on 5th June 2000. The proponent M/s Murdeshwar Power Corporation claimed the dam was a run of the river scheme and would produce 18 MW of electricity at the cost of about Rs. 200 crores. Even as it was criticized as the most expensive hydel project ever proposed (normal costs/MW of Hydel power is in the range of Rs. 3 crores), the proponent in an attempt to secure environmental clearance had provided a plagiarised Environment Impact Assessment prepared by Ernst and Young. Within months of Environment Support Group exposing this shocking attempt, the proponent supplied another fraudulent EIA, this time prepared by Tata Energy Research Institute. Keeping in view relevant law, the Government was bound to reject the project. Recently, however, there were surveys to determine the impact the dam would cause on white water rafting being undertaken by Jungle Lodges.
The implication of this clarification from Mr. Deshpande is that the last flowing stretch of the 180 kms long Kali River and the surrounding forests will now be protected for posterity. Over 210 hectares of riverine forests, that form an excellent habitat for the unique Black Panther, amongst a range of other wildlife, and the extraordinary beauty of this region, is thus saved from submergence. The beneficiaries include tribal hamlets who would otherwise be forced to relocate. Also benefiting would be thousands of sensitive tourists from all over the world who come to Dandeli for white water rafting organised by Karnataka's Jungle Lodges. The stretch, along which they would raft, about nine kilometres in all, is the very stretch of the river that is threatened with submergence by the dam.
Kali Bachao Andolan Meeting;
The meeting of Kali Bachao Andolan in Bangalore on 19 September was called to focus the attention of the Karnataka Government to the series of mal-developmental measures that were being adopted in the Kali Valley. Serious pollution of Kali by West Coast Paper Mills and large dams building has decimated wildlife and forests in the region. (Over 35000 hectares have been submerged in Kali Valley alone by dams in Uttara Kannada). Local communities have been threatened with dire action if they raised protest against such assault on the environment and people. The Andolan, therefore, has become a major intervener in representing these issues with the Government, and forcing it to respond with locally appropriate development.
Action against West Coast Paper Mills:
In another significant development of this meeting, over 30 representatives of Kali Bachao Andoloan met with Mr. J. Alexander, Chairman of Karnataka State Pollution Control Board, Mr. Ramaiah, Member Secretary, and Mr. M. D. N. Simha, Chief Scientific Officer, to press for action against the West Coast Paper Mills. This factory set up in 1956 to produce paper from the bamboo extracted from Uttara Kannada forests has completely depleted bamboo forests. Now using eucalyptus, acacia and subabul, the company has demonstrated wanton disregard in retaining the region’s environmental quality.
For decades West Coast Paper Mills has discharged untreated effluents into Kali causing serious pollution of the river and groundwater. Its pulp has floated into downstream dams stinking up the waters and destroyed agriculture. A most recent instance of its pollution resulted in the death of new born infant and acute renal failure of a young man, while and also causing widespread gastroenteritis in downstream villages. The company has repeatedly violated environmental norms and standards, and has consistently overproduced doubling its production over consented levels. Despite various complaints, the Pollution Control Board has not initiated penal required action. A recent stealth survey by Central Pollution Control Board demonstrated that pollution caused by the Mill was very serious. It was also discovered that meters for fresh water intake and discharge of trade effluents were tampered with and not functioning, thus causing the State enormous losses.
When these issues were brought up with the Board President Mr. Alexander, and he was pressed for a response, there was little he could offer. He thus confirmed that he would make a visit to Dandeli in October. He also committed to take action per law on issues of overproduction and if the company was not to have a new effluent treatment plant functional by 30 September, as ordered by the Board, he promised appropriate legal action.
Relief for affected villages:
Kali Bachao Andolan demanded immediate relief to affected villages whose water is polluted, and both Mr. Deshpande and Mr. Alexander have ordered independent enquiries to assess the costs involved for potable water to be supplied. It was also committed that a detailed health survey would be conducted to assess the impact of decades of pollution on people’s health.
The meeting also highlighted other significant threats to the region due to incessant mercury pollution by Ballarpur Industries manufacturing caustic soda and by the Kaiga Nuclear Power Station near Karwar.