Citing environmental laws, the petitioner stated that such hydroelectric projects cannot be allowed inside a wildlife sanctuary.

heavy drilling in Sharavathi valleyFile image
news Environment Thursday, September 10, 2020 - 17:01

The Karnataka High Court on Thursday issued notices to the state government and other agencies while hearing the public interest litigation (PIL) filed against the ongoing survey and geotechnical investigation for the Sharavathi Valley hydropower project in Shivamogga district.  The petitioner, Edward Santosh Martin, has opposed the project stating that the project should not be allowed to proceed as it violates multiple environmental laws and poses an imminent threat to the endangered Lion-tailed Macaque.

“It is submitted that there is an imminent threat to its existing population and habitat from the ongoing ‘Survey and Geotechnical Investigation’ entailing drilling 12 boreholes (2x2 inches diameter) inside the Sharavathi Valley LTM (Lion-Tailed Macaque) Sanctuary during the heavy monsoon month of August, which also is the breeding season for the species. The survey work is being undertaken by the Karnataka Power Corporation Ltd (user agency), which will ultimately lead to the establishment of 2,000 mega-watts pump storage hydro-electric project, affecting 877.57 hectares of the forest of the Sharavathi Valley LTM Sanctuary,” the petition said.

The Sharavathi River, which originates in the central Western Ghats region, flows westward through Shivamogga and Uttara Kannada districts of Karnataka before joining the Arabian Sea. The Linganamakki Dam (located close to the Jog Falls) and the Gerusoppa Dam have been built on the river. The Sharavathi Project is a 2,000MW hydroelectric project and aims to pump water from downstream reservoirs — Talakalale and Gerusoppa — to generate electricity.

The petitioner submitted that the establishment of the hydro-electric project is a prohibited activity in the Eco-Sensitive Zone of any National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 and that such a project is not allowed inside a Wildlife Sanctuary mentioned under section 29 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.

It was earlier widely reported how the power project was opposed on various grounds, especially because the project has been planned within the limits of the Sharavathi Valley Lion Tailed Macaque (LTM) Sanctuary. 

These forests are also known for Myristica swamps, an ancient evergreen forest system. These freshwater swamp forests are home to a range of species of reptiles, birds and amphibians. 

Other than Sharavathi Valley, these swamps are only found in just two areas in India — Karnataka's Uttara Kannada district and in southern Kerala.

Further objections were raised with the timing of the ongoing survey in monsoon. Incidentally, one of the conditions for the survey process laid down by the Forest Department is that the drilling had to be halted during the south-west monsoon. 

Ecologists consider the monsoon period as the rejuvenation time for the swamps and the drilling work, especially at this time, could upset the ecological balance of the forest area.

Speaking to TNM, Sreeja Chakraborty, advocate for the petitioner said that the HC has directed all the respondents to file their response by September 30 and appear before the court.

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