Gundia Hydro Electric Project
December 2009: The Gundia Hydro Electric Project (GHEP) proposed by the Karnataka Power Corporation Limited (KPCL) is sited amidst the serene and ecologically fragile Western Ghats. If the project is built, it will destroy this vital landscape. The Western Ghats are a biodiversity hotspot – Gundia is one of only three known locations in Karantaka where the Travancore Flying Squirrel Petinomys fuscocapillus has been recorded. The endangered slender loris Loris tardigradus and the endemic Lion-tailed macaque are also found here.
Mega-fauna such as elephants and even tigers have been reported from the region which is already fragmented. The GHEP area is also one of the most important catchment areas of river Nethravathi which supplies water to the Dakshina Kannada district, an area already facing acute water shortages. The result of the forest destruction would be the drying up of perennial springs that would severely impact the lives of thousands of people living downstream.
Environmentalists have pointed out major flaws in the EIA report, which reflects the typical neglect and apathy of some officials. Many cases have come to light of officials who had been paid to protect our environment, but chose to harm it for personal profit.
To give Sanctuary readers an idea of the callous attitude of those who are pushing the project, page 11 of the executive summary states that there are no migratory faunal species in the area and the proposed reservoir will not obstruct wildlife movement. But everyone knows that the region is home to tigers, elephants, lion-tailed macaques and the host of other species that share their habitat. Even a ten-year-old knows that all these animals require large tracts of lands to survive.
Another passage reads: “None of the species of fish reported from the area, shows migratory behavior and none of the species are rare, threatened or endangered.” What an amazing statement! Scientists from the Indian Institute of Science identified a total of 14 freshwater fish species from the area including two endemic and endangered species. And in November 2007, scientists from the Zoological Society of India found a new freshwater catfish Glyptothorax kudremukhensis in Kuduremukh that can survive only in flowing water and would undoubtedly be one of the first victims of such a project.
There is more. A table in the report lists only 18 birds. In fact at least 49 species were recorded by students from the National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bangalore during just three days of a survey they conducted in the same region. Their list included the hill myna Gracula religiosa and the Ceylon Frogmouth Batrachostomus moniliger both of which are protected under Schedule I of the Wild Life Protection Act 1972 – the highest protection afforded only to very threatened species
The list of contradictions is long and those who prepared this official report might justifiably be accused of ‘voluntary illiteracy’. On page 99 the reports claims: ‘the submersible area does not contain any rare, vulnerable, endangered or endemic plant species or suitable niches for mega animals.’ Yet, the Indian Institute of Science recorded as many as 184 floral species belonging to 72 families of which 46 species are endemic (found nowhere else).
Such flaw-ridden EIA reports have been the order of the day and for over a decade the MoEF has been clearing every single project that was put before them, despite such errors being pointed out. But things have changed. With Mr. Jairam Ramesh at the helm of affairs, fortunately, officials of the MoEF have been taken to task and the process of replacing them with more sincere and effective officers is on.
Even though the Chief Minister of Karnataka Sri.Yeddyurappa laid a foundation stone for the project on Saturday 23, May 2009, Ramesh has now refused clearance to the project for all the reasons listed above and more. The Ministry has communicated its decision to the Karnataka State Government stating that: “The project will destroy 1,900 acres of forest and create ecological problems.”
Sanctuary readers are requested to write two letters regarding this project:
To the Chief Minister of Karnataka: stating that he should not have laid the foundation stone of the project without getting environmental clearance.
Supporting the decision of the MoEF not to grant clearance.
Asking that the Karnataka Government take steps to implement the environmental conditions on which past environmental clearances for large scale projects were given.
Also write to Mr. Jairam Ramesh to thank him for taking this very welcome decision to refuse clearance for the project.
B. S. Yeddyurappa
Chief Minister of Karnataka,
Room No. 323-A, 3rd Floor Vidhana Soudha, Dr. Ambedkar Veedhi, Bangalore-560001.
Ph: 22253414, 22253424.