Sahyadri Conservation Series: 24 ENVIS Technical Report: 54,  April 2013
Kumaradhara River Basin, Karnataka Western Ghats: Need for Conservation and Sustainable Use
1Energy and Wetlands Research Group, Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore – 560012, India.
2Member, Western Ghats Task Force, Government of Karnataka, 3Member, Karnataka Biodiversity Board, Government of Karnataka
4Member, Tree Authority  Mangalore (Rural),  Government of Karnataka
*Corresponding author:

Date: Fri, Mar 22, 2013 at 10:53 PM
Subject: Mini Scams Dot The Cauvery
Tehelka <>Mini Scams Dot
The Cauvery <>
*Mini hydel projects are wreaking havoc in the river basin as well as bleeding the Karnataka government coffers*
*Major mess* A mini hydel project at Kempu Hole in Karnataka

Not many Bengaluru citizens are aware of the damage that mini hydel projects are causing to the city’s water supply. A string of projects cleared by the Karnataka Renewable Energy Development Ltd (KREDL) has not only ruined the ecology of some of the most sensitive areas in the state, but also threatens to undermine the water supply from the Cauvery river to the city. Now, armed with the recent Karnataka High Court judgment on the ban of mini hydel projects in the Western Ghats, activists want to challenge KREDL’s decision to allot 74 such projects in the Cauvery basin.

It was recently reported that following the drastic fall in the water level in the Shiva Balancing Reservoir, the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board has asked the Karnataka Power Transmission Corporation Ltd (KPTCL) and Karnataka Power Corporation Ltd (KPCL) to stop power generation from four mini hydel projects in the Cauvery basin at least till May. These are located at Madhavamantri, Satyagala, Shiva Anicut and Shimsha.

However, KREDL has allotted 74 mini hydel projects in the Cauvery basin, apart from the 24 projects that have already been commissioned, most of them downstream Krishnaraja Sagar Dam. Some of them are downstream from the Shiva Anicut from where water supply is routed to the capital city. Besides the decrease in water availability, water stored by several mini hydel projects also increases the evapo-transpiration rate of water, particularly in the summer, says Parineeta Deshpande-Dandekar of the South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People, an informal collective of organisations and individuals working on water-related issues. These projects also hold back water, critically affecting water supply cycles to Bengaluru and other towns and villages. Last year, similar conditions had occurred in Mangalore where water levels in the Thumbe Dam fell to alarming levels due to mini hydel projects hoarding up water in the upstream.

Apart from the issue of drinking water, several of these projects are located close to the Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary. In fact, the 24.75 MW Pioneer Genco project shares a border with the sanctuary. Many of the mini hydel projects are inside reserve forests, and some of them, such asSatyagala and Limbavalli, are known to be impeding the movement of elephants; leading to more human-elephant conflicts. Activists are a puzzled lot, wondering how the Forest Department gave the nod for the projects.

Due to their cumulative impact on ecology, the HC has halted construction of any such projects in the Western Ghats. Responding to a PIL filed by Prashant Yavagal and Western Ghats Environment Forums on 27 February, the HC cancelled 12 such projects, as they were located in the ecologically sensitive zones. And the HC has asked the state not to allot any more projects in the Western Ghats.

Under the law, private players are allowed to build and operate mini hydel projects that have a capacity of less than 25 MW. In order to circumvent the stringent law, private firms split one big project into different mini ones. By doing this, they also escape the mandatory Environmental Clearance, Environment Impact Assessment or Public Hearing, which are compulsory for large power projects. There is also an added economic benefit for the private players insplitting the projects. Under the subsidies granted to mini hydel projects, the government purchases power at the rate of Rs 3.40; however, if it is amega project, then it is bought at just Rs 2.30. Many mini hydel projectshave been purposefully split to show them as below 25 MW to get a higherpower tariff. The difference is causing a loss of Rs 300-400 crore to thestate government every year, says Sanjay Gubbi, a wildlife scientist withthe Nature Conservation Foundation. Consumers also end up paying highertariffs due to this scam.

While permitting mini hydel projects in the ecologically sensitive WesternGhats, officials hid the fact that there are rare and endangered species in the area, he adds.
Many of the officers TEHELKA spoke to refused to speak on this subject.After initially avoiding our calls, KREDL Managing Director MB Dyaberisaid, he doesn’t want to comment on the issue.


Karnataka High Court rules out any more projects in the Western Ghats

Thursday, Feb 28, 2013, 15:37 IST | Place: Mangalore | Agency: DNA
M Raghuram

The Karnataka High Court today disposed off the writ petition filed against the mini-hydro projects that were to come up in the Western Ghats. The Karnataka High Court today disposed off the writ petition filed by environmentalists in the state against the mini-hydro projects that were to come up in the Western Ghats. The writ petition (number 9333/2009) was disposed by Chief Justice Sridhar Rao and Justice Abdul Nazir. The petitioner Prashant G Yavagal and the Western Ghats Environment Forum have been fighting the award of 20 micro-hydro electric projects in the Karnataka part of the Western Ghats.

“This was a landmark victory for the struggle against mindless developmental projects in the environmentally sensitive Western Ghats,” Prashant told DNA.

“The high court action has saved many water bodies being fragmented, leading to destruction of habitats of many species of animals and birds, including tigers, elephants, great pied hornbills and several other endangered species in the rich, evergreen Shola Forests of the Western Ghats,” Gubbi told DNA.

Out of 20 projects, eight of them had secured permission from the forest department by splitting the projects into two, to bring down the forest area required under five hectares. It was done to avoid legal scrutiny that is mandatory under the law for projects that require forestland above five hectares and above 25 MW capacity.

This was a serious manipulation and violation of Forest Act, but it was done by the department.

Following the writ petition, the authorities of the forest department and Karnataka Renewable Energy Limited have cancelled ten projects that the petitioners challenged in the HC. The state government also filed an affidavit in the court that no new mini-hydel projects would be permitted in the Western Ghats.

Satisfied with the action taken by the authorities, and based on these affidavits filed by the forest department, the court disposed off the writ petitions, said an advocate MK Ramesh.

In many such cases of violations, it so happens that the tail of one project is the mouth of another. Observations made by different environmental groups active in the Western Ghats point out that such intensive development projects in the Western Ghats will  fragment habitats and migration routes existing ever since the formation of the ghats. This would lead to an increased confrontation between humans and animals.

A project implemented by Maruthi Power Gen India Limited, which had circumvented the law and encroached on forestland, has been asked to approach the authorities with a fresh application. A case of forest offence has also been filed against the company. Based on this, the state government recommended the cancellation of lease of the projects implemented by Maruthi Power Gen India Private Limited on 17-07-2012.

Anu Chengappa and MK Ramesh represented the petitioners in the court. The activists felt that this landmark decision should also help environmentalists working in other states that share the Western Ghats, including Tamil Nadu (Nilgiris) Kerala, Goa and Maharashtra, where the governments have cleared as many as 132 hydro electric projects of various sizes.

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