Don’t Cut Through Coorg!
The construction of a power line threatens to rip apart Coorg’s finest forests. Sanctuary urges its readers to write demanding that alternatives to this destruction be examined.
About the Campaign:
Discontent is brewing in the peaceful environs of Kodagu, Karnataka’s famous coffee district, as locals rally against the construction of a 400 KV high-tension wire that will result in the felling of thousands of trees in the area’s reserve forests and private plantations. The project is an undertaking of the Power Grid Corporation of India Ltd. (PGCIL), which wants to access power from the Kaiga Nuclear Plant in Uttar Karnataka and supply it to Kozhikode in Kerala. The alignment will cut through the biodiversity-rich Western Ghats and the catchment area of the Cauvery river. While government estimates claim the number of trees to be cut at between 2,200 and 21,000, activists assert that the number is closer to 50,000.
In 2014, the Coorg Wildlife Society, represented by council Ritwick Dutta amongst others, filed an application with the National Green Tribunal against the project. While the three respondents – the state of Karnataka, the Ministry of Environment and Forests, and the PGCIL, hotly defended the project (including the possibility of alternate alignments), the application served to draw attention to the probable environmental impacts of the power line. The issues of most urgent concern include:
Loss of biodiversity: Coorg’s coffee plantations host an estimated 280 species of trees that support all manner of wildlife. The reserve forests are even richer, and sightings of mega fauna such as elephants, gaurs and leopards are not uncommon. Losing 50,000, or even 20,000, old growth trees would invariably have an impact on the wildlife of Kodagu, and fragment the forests. The entire Kodagu district is classified as an Eco-sensitive Zone.
Fear of electrocution: Exposed power lines pose a major threat to fauna. Arboreal, canopy-dwelling species are at especially high risk. Incidents of wild elephants being electrocuted by such lines have already been reported. The danger of high-tension wires is well established. In Kutchh, Gujarat, the electrocution of 400 flamingos by such cables forced the government to lay the wires underground.
Exacerbating conflict: The trajectory of the power line will pass through the Maldare area of Kodagu, an area notorious for its high level of elephant-human conflict. Disturbances and loss of habitat caused by the construction of the power line will only exacerbate the situation.
Impact on water flow: The trees will be felled in the catchment area of the Lakshmanteertha river, a major tributary of the Cauvery. It is feared that the loss of forest cover will directly affect the holding capacity of the catchment area.
Beyond the stated environmental concerns, the protesting locals, both individuals and organisations, are alleging improper conduct on the part of the authorities. Some of the accusations are:
1. The PGCIL is being supported by the timber lobby notorious for illegally plundering a much larger number of trees than officially permitted.
2. False charges are being filed against peaceful protesters by the district administration as a silencing mechanism.
3. The three-member committee did not adequately examine the alternatives presented to them by power analyst Shankar Sharma, who showed how it was possible to avoid most of the damage that would be caused by the current alignment. Nor did the committee acknowledge that the existing grid capacity of 3,000 MW was more than enough to evacuate electricity to Kerala. “The total capacity of the existing lines connecting Kerala to Tamil Nadu and Karnataka is about 3,000 MW, whereas total share of Kerala from central sector stations is less than 1,000 MW. Hence it is clear that there is already adequate transmission capacity existing.”
The fight to save Kodagu’s old growth trees is gaining momentum and a number of celebrities fromthe district, including badminton player Ashwini Ponappa and cricketer Robin Uthappa, have enjoined the battle, as have coffee planters, farmers from Mysore-Mandya and local environmentalists.
We need to send out a clear message to the Karnataka state governmentand PGCIL.
You could register your protest against the construction of the 400KV high-tension power line, thus saving thousands of trees in the Kodagu area. Do include the following points:
1. The destruction and fragmentation of forests will have a serious negative impact on the biodiversity of this area, and will possibly affect water flow and availability in the region.
2. Hacking down 50,000 trees, with the associated disturbance will aggravate human-wild elephant conflict.
3. The Committee must examine the alternatives presented to them.
4. Take local authorities to task for harassing protesters at the behestof both the timber and power-contractor lobbies.
Address your letters to:
Shri Pranab Mukherjee
The President of India
The Secretariat,Rashtrapati Bhavan,
New Delhi,110 004.
Power Grid Corporation of India Ltd.
Saudamini, Plot No.2, Sector 29,
Gurgaon 122 001, Haryana, India.
Tel.: +91 (124) 2571 700
Fax: +91 (124) 2571 848
Chief Minister, Karnataka
No.323, 3rd Floor, Vidhana Soudha,
Bengaluru – 560233.
Shri K.J. George
Home Minister, Karnataka
Room No. 316, 316A, 3rd Floor,
Bangalore - 560 001.
Copy to: Coorg Wildlife Society
P.O. Box 61, Chain Gate,
Madikeri - 571 201.