Environment Support Group ® Parisara Samrakshana Kendra
S-3, Rajashree Apartments, 18/57, Hulemalgi Building, Chowkimath
1st Main Road, S. R. K. Gardens, Sirsi (Uttara Kannada Dt.),
Jayanagar, Bannerghatta Road, Karnataka 581401
Bangalore 560 041. INDIA Tel: 91-8384-25139
Telefax: 91-80-6341977 Fax: 91-8384-27839
05 December 2000
TERI produces EIA for Dandeli Dam Project in no time
Efforts on to rush environmental clearance for MPC project
During August-September this year, we had exposed, in what we called the "worst case of fraud in environmental decision making history in India", the fact that Ernst and Young, an international consulting firm, "completely plagiarised the Rapid Environment Impact Assessment of the Tattihalla Augmentation Scheme prepared by Institute for Catchment Studies and Environmental Management, Bangalore”, thus presenting Dandeli as being in Tattihalla. Ernst and Young was presenting an Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) for the Rs. 180 crore hydel project proposed by Murdeshwar Power Corporation (MPC) across the Kali River in the environmentally sensitive Uttara Kannada district of the Western Ghats. All that Ernst & Young had "cared to change" was the name of the dam, DMH (Dandeli Mini-Hydel Scheme) for TAS (Tattihalla Augmentation Scheme).
Despite this expose', widely covered by the media both within India and abroad, the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board proceeded to hold the Environmental Public Hearing on 21 August 2000 on the basis of this plagiarised report. During the Hearing, hired thugs representing the developer threatened those who questioned the validity of the process, with dire consequences. Even a month after the Hearing, the Government of Karnataka remained tight-lipped on what action would follow, refusing to accept demands that the entire episode must be thoroughly investigated by a judicial officer. Covertly, however, it seems to have advised Murdeshwar Power Corporation to get another EIA done for the project so that the project, which has received high political patronage, could be put through the clearance process without further controversy.
Tata Energy Research Institute (TERI: www.teriin.org), India’s famous NGO research agency, collected the contract for salvaging the reputation of the Government of Karnataka and MPC, and produced what it claimed to be an Environment Impact Assessment, by October 2000. Shockingly, TERI claims the “study was carried out for a period of one month utlising 375 man days (September to October 2000)”, thus suggesting that 15 people worked for a period of 25 days.
Environment Impact Assessments of projects in biodiversity rich and inaccessible forests of Western Ghats require detailed and repeated observations over different seasons to arrive at what can be considered to be reasonably accurate predictions of the adverse impacts of the project. Considering that the period was “September to October”, when rain lashes this high rainfall region, it is very difficult to access the region, let alone do any study reasonably well. This especially when the preparation for the field study, conduct of the study, analysis of data and writing of the report is all to be done in less than a month. Quite apart from whether 15 people actually did the field-work, local people confirm that the TERI team was in the Dandeli area for the period of a week.
That even the month long work claimed has not been done is revealed in the “EIA” prepared by TERI. Dr. Ranjit Daniels (formerly with Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science), who is an authority on the biodiversity of the region and a person with extensive field experience of the area, reviewed the study for us and found the ecological data presented in the study: “secondary and spurious”. He concludes that “recommendations based on these can't be taken seriously”. Questioning the credentials of those who have conducted the study, Dr. Daniels’ notes that “the statement that the forests here record "very less species per unit area" (Sec IV – 19 of the TERI EIA) is "absurd” for “such forests are the richest in biodiversity in Uttara Kannada". And charges TERI of copying species information “without acknowledgement” and without relevance to the project area. Dr. Daniels note reviewing the ecological information in the TERI “EIA” is enclosed.
We note with concern that based on such “spurious” information and based on a study format that is not in compliance with standard EIA guidelines, TERI rushes to the conclusion that “taking into account the economic development and social upliftment in the area, via-a-vis the minimal (emphasis ours) environmental impact, overall the proposed project may be said to be beneficial”. And this when not providing any economic and social information to justify this generic approval of the project.
Given Ernst and Young's plagiarised EIA attempt to push the MPC project clearance earlier, one would have expected any subsequent study to be twice guarded in coming to a conclusion on the impacts of a dam in this region. That TERI has stooped to such low levels as to doctor an "EIA" within a month, claiming “375 man days” of effort, is a most distressing and condemnable development. To say the least, such an effort was not expected from an organisation that claims high ethical standards for its research efforts, and most certainly not to enable a project that has been controversial for violating the fundamental precepts of Indian Environmental Legislation in its proposal to locate a dam in an ecologically fragile region.
We thus demand:
1. That TERI must withdraw this "EIA" report immediately
2. The Environmental Public Hearing to be held on 7th December 2000 at Dandeli, on the basis of the TERI "EIA", should be postponed indefinitely.
3. The MPC project application must be rejected in accordance with the Environment Impact Assessment Notification for producing wrong and fraudulent EIA's, not once, but twice, within a five month period.
4. And reiterate our earlier demand for a judicial inspection into why the MPC project has been provided such zealous attention by the Government of Karnataka.
Only a thorough and independent investigation will reveal if the political proximity of the project developer, Mr. R. N. Shetty, to Karnataka’s Industries Minister, Mr. R. V. Deshpande, who represents the Dandeli constituency, has anything to do with the project receiving such acute attention from the Government. This particularly when we risk losing yet another valuable patch of the fast dwindling spread of Western Ghats forests.
Leo F. Saldanha/Bhargavi S. Rao Pandurang Hegde/Balachandra Hegde
Environment Support Group Parisara Samrakshana Kendra
· More information on the history of the Dandeli Dam proposal can be sourced online at http://web.estart.com/~esg/
(Comments in parenthesis are by ESG)
I am qualified only to comment on the ecological aspects having worked in the Dandeli area during the late 1980's. From a perusal of the TERI EIA it is obvious that the person who has done the flora/fauna is not a qualified biologist. Statements, such as, the forests here record "very less species per unit area" (Sec IV - 19) is absurd. Judging by the species (listed in the TERI EIA study), the forest is clearly a mosaic of deciduous and evergreen forests. Such forests are the richest in biodiversity in Uttara Kannada. Forest working plans published in 1993 (and used as basis of the TERI EIA study) might have been prepared years ago and hence with outdated information on plants and animals. To base species list on this is unwise.
Names of species are erroneous, sometimes outdated and even non-existent in reality. Plant names are full of spelling and classification errors. List of fishes of River Kali is dubious. Sole (Cynoglossus lingua Ham.) is a marine estuarine species and it can hardly exist in the proposed site. There are no lung fishes in India! (as claimed to exist in Sec IV - 34 of TERI EIA).
Crocodiles in Kali River? Where exactly? This is news! Source has not been provided for bird List Karwar-Haliyal area even when there are specific lists for Dandeli prepared by a student of Univ. of Karnataka in Dharwar, (perhaps) in 1989. There are not more than 150 species of birds in the area and the list is copied without acknowledgement. (In contrast to the TERI EIA claims that 233 bird species are found in the Dandeli Dam Study Area). Gallus gallus: Red Jungle Fowl, is not known from the State of Karnataka (as claimed to exist in Dandeli vide Table 4.14; Sec. IV - 35 of the TERI EIA). New records of species (as claimed to have been the result of the TERI EIA study), indicated with *, are well known in the district even 100 years ago! Further, there cannot be many of these species in the study area. Such compilations don't help.
Too few butterflies. Many common butterfly species missed out.
There are no 'herds' of elephants, in Dandeli (as claimed in the TERI EIA). 10-12 years ago there was one herd with less than 20 individuals around Haliyal. And, there are no foxes! Snake list consists of only the most common species (while the area has) many more. For eg. Even the more commonly occurring Pit Vipers are not listed?
Amphibian data is spurious. Ansonia ornata, Bufo microtympanum are not known from the district. (as claimed to exist in Dandeli in Table 4.17, Sec IV - 43 of the TERI EIA)
In general, the ecological data presented is secondary and spurious. And thus, recommendations based on these can't be taken seriously.