23 December 2006
Forest Clearance for Dandeli Dam rejected once again by GOI
In a significant move, the Indian Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has stood by its earlier decision of 21 June 2006 to refuse forest clearance to the Dandeli Mini Hydel Project proposed by M/s Murdeshwar Power Corporation (MPCL). MPCL proposed this dam across the Kali River that flows through the mountainous and thickly forested Western Ghats terrain in Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka.
Responding to a Right to Information application filed by Environment Support Group (ESG), MoEF in its letter dated 16 November 2006 has confirmed that "the report of the site visit of Shri. S. Sankaramurthy was considered by the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) in its meeting held on 27.10.2006, and the Committee has again recommended for rejection of the proposal for diversion of forest land in favour of M/s Murudeshwar Power Corporation Limited for construction of 18.00 MW Mini Hydel Project on Kali river in Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka." MoEF has also stated that "(s)ince the matter of constitution of FAC is at present sub-judice in the Hon'ble Supreme Court of India, the decision of the Central Government on the basis of the recommendations of the Forest Advisory Committee can be communicated only after final order to be passed by the Hon'ble Court regarding constitution of FAC."
It may be recalled that MoEF rejected forest clearance for this dam earlier this year (21 June 2006) citing reasons such as "adverse impacts on tourism of the surrounding area" and that "the Ministry has imposed the condition that no more Hydroelectric Project shall be allowed on Kali River and its tributaries, which was endorsed by the State Government also".
The Kali river which is only 184 kms. long is amongst the most dammed rivers in the world. With most of the river course and surrounding forests under submergence due to the 6 dams built, the only remaining free-flowing stretch of the Kali is seen upstream of Dandeli. This stretch would be totally lost if the MPCL project were approved. Further, the proposed dam would effectively destroy one of only two major river stretches in India where white water rafting is possible (the other being in Rishikesh). Rafting as a recreational and educational activity has helped bring valuable revenue to the Dandeli town and also served in spreading environmental awareness amongst thousands.
Disturbingly, following the rejection of the forest clearance by the Centre in June this year, the Karnataka Dept. of Forests, Ecology and Environment had urged for a review of this decision vide a letter dated 30 May 2006, arguing that the dam was "conceived as a 'Run of the River' scheme" and thus would not submerge any forest. MoEF reacted to this request by sending a former Indian Forest Service officer Shri. S. Sankaramurthy to the proposed dam site.
Shri. Sankaramurthy visited Dandeli on 17 October 2006 and has filed a report stating that "construction of the proposed weir will lead to conditions that will virtually eliminate rafting from the scene" besides severely constraining the possibility of "protection of forests around". The report also states that "the forests on either side of the river and in the very many islands, below the proposed weir, is rich in wildlife including elephants Crocodiles also are sighted in the river below the weir site. These forests, particularly in the islands, are roosting sites for the endangered Hornbill. If the weir is constructed, about 9 kms of the river below the weir will be dry for most part of the year. Thus the approval of the proposed Power Project will have very serious adverse repercussions on the vegetation and the wildlife" (sic). Shri Sankarmurthy's report also disputes the contention of the Karnataka Dept. of Environment and MPCL that this is a "run of the river" project by observing that the "height of the weir may be atleast 6-7 metres from the river bed and not 3 metres as made out in the proposal".
On this basis, Shri. Sankaramurthy recommends that "(i)n view of the overwhelming adverse implications I am of the opinion that there is no case for agreeing to divert forest land including the river course for the proposed min hydro electric project which is likely to generate a meager 18 M.W. of power. The proposal may be rejected citing adverse implication on the Ecology, Wildlife and Ecotourism and on socio economic considerations."
Fraud, misrepresentation and plagiarism of information have all been employed by MPCL in aggressively pursuing this project. In 2000 it had furnished an Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) produced by M/s Ernst and Young for the proposed dam. ESG very soon uncovered that this EIA was nothing but a complete photocopy of an EIA in progress for the Tattihalla dam in the neighbouring Dharwar district. No criminal action was initiated by the Government against MPCL or Ernst & Young for what is arguably the most scandalous act in environmental decision making in India. When asked to resubmit a fresh EIA, MPCL hired Tata Energy Research Institute (TERI) which submitted an EIA that was once again found to be fraudulent! Following an Environmental Public Hearing and legal submissions by ESG, the Deputy Commissioner of Uttara Kannada had considered all these aspects and recommended the project be rejected.
Unrelenting in its pursuit of building this dam and for reasons known best to them, MPCL once again resumed its efforts to secure clearance for the project a couple of years ago. But the proposal was strongly opposed by the Karnataka Forest Department and the Dept. of Tourism and was finally rejected earlier this year by MoEF.
With MoEF standing by its June order to reject the proposed MPCL dam at Dandeli, it has become imperative for the Government of Karnataka to ensure that last flowing stretch of the Kali River is protected for posterity. This is best done by passing a legislation that endorses and enshrines in law the 1988 Karnataka Government Order against building any more dams on the Kali River.
Leo F. Saldanha
Environment Support Group ®
105, East End B Main Road, Jayanagar 9th Block East, Bangalore 560069.INDIA
Tel: 91-80-22441977/26531339 Fax: 91-80-26534364
Email: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org Web: www.esgindia.org
1. MoEF letter dated 16 November 2006 to ESG to confirm rejection of forest clearance
Moef Letter - Page 1
Moef Letter - Page 2
Govt of Karnataka Reply Letter - Page1
Govt of Karnataka Reply Letter - Page 2
Murudeshwar Corporation Letter - Page 1
Murudeshwar Corporation Letter - Page 2
2. Shri. Sankaramurthy's report dated 26 October 2006
Back to main page