‘Forest officials hid that water will be used for industry’

Even as a day long protest was held against diversion of the Nethravati here on Friday, an environmental activist is planning to lodge a Lokayukta complaint against State Forest Department officials for providing “false documentation” to seek approval for the Yettinahole diversion project from the Ministry of Environment and Forests.

Talking during the one-day hunger protest against the project, Kateel Dinesh Pai, who had previously led a struggle against the Mangalore Special Economic Zone project, said the letters sent by the State “obfuscates” numerous facts about the diversion project which seeks to pump nearly 24tmc of water from tributaries of the Netravati towards water-starved regions of Karnataka.

“To seek easier and faster approvals, the letter states that the project is for drinking water purposes. The officials have not mentioned that some of the diverted water will be used for industrial purposes and for 150MW hydroelectric power generation downstream,” he said.

After ascertaining the name of the officer who signed the letter, he would file the complaint. When asked if a Lokayukta complaint can be effective, Mr. Pai said: “We used this in MSEZ protests. And though there is no action against the officer, it served as a warning that they have to be cautious before submitting documents. Similarly, now we hope that if Lokayukta launches an investigation, the Forest Department officials will be cautious before blindly signing to what politicians say about the project.”

The protest, organised under the banner Sahyadri Samrakshana Sanchaya, saw the support of numerous activists and even local political leaders. The forum of activists was formed recently after Union Minister M. Veerappa Moily announced that foundation stone for the project would be laid soon.

Dinesh Holla, coordinator of the forum, warned that the hastily-planned project would lead to water scarcity in the coastal and the plains of Karnataka. “One can spend money to rebuild cities and monuments, but reconstituting a damaged river and its ecosystem is next to impossible,” he said.

Blaming political representatives of the state for “taking advantage” of the lack of awareness of the project, activist Kishore Shiradi said: “Politicians tell farmers that their crops will go without water if the project is not implemented… they distort facts to justify ravaging of the narrow forests of ghats.”

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