Residents are against setting up of towers that will pave the way for drawing lines through their plots

On the fringes of the city, where the low hills of Jalligudde and the serene Netravati meet, residents are up in arms against the construction of high-tension towers across their land.

On Tuesday, several residents stopped workers from the Karnataka Power Transmission Corporation Limited (KPTCL) from erecting towers on their plots in Kattabuni in Jalligudde.

“Around 60 cents of my land close to the river cannot be used now as KPTCL has laid the foundation for four pillars of the tower. No notice was given or promise of compensation made,” said Dhiraj Naik, a transport owner. On the property adjacent to his house, a second tower is being erected. “Who can live in the house when the tower is so close to the house?” he said.

Though within city limits, Jalligudde is insulated from rampant construction seen in other parts of the city. Narrow undeveloped roads have resulted in vast areas of vacant plots. However, land owners fear the high-tension towers would not allow the development of the plots into houses.

Suresh Shetty, on whose 1.5 acre property the high-tension wires will pass, said: “Will anyone give me a No Objection Certificate when the lines pass right above the house? Or, will anyone buy a house that is so close to the lines?”

The issue had first propped up in 2009, two years after the KPTCL issued a gazette notification for the erection of 40 towers between Gram Chavadi in south Mangalore Taluk to the upcoming Jeppu Sub-station (on the Konaje – Kulashekar line). Eight towers passes through Jalligudde and 21 residents, on whose property the lines will pass overhead or on whose property the towers are being constructed, took the matter up with the District Commissioner Court, which stayed the case before giving the ruling in favour of KPTCL in 2010. The residents then approached the High Court, which refused to issue a stay order. Two months ago, work started in the area under heavy police protection, said the residents.

“There is no talk of compensation for the land taken. We demand that KPTCL shift the towers alongside the Netravati else or take the whole project underground,” said Shashidhar Shetty, a resident who believes his 50 cent land cannot be developed if the project is realised.

Deepak, Executive Engineer, Major Works Division, Kavoor, KPTCL, said all procedures were followed in the project, including perusal of objections filed. “We had told the district court that no other path was feasible, and we cannot go underground in the areas as apart from the increased expense, any development in the area close to the wires such as underground drainage work can lead to loss of life,” he said.

He added that the KPTCL had looked into their objections and decided to construct the towers with a 3-meter-wide base, instead of the six-metre-wide base normally constructed. “Construction will continue with police protection,” Mr. Deepak said.

Payout only for felled trees

Unlike other laws governing land acquisition, the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, which governs the laying of power lines, states that compensation by the utility, in this case the KPTCL, can be given only if trees on the property are cut.

And so, with the residents of Jalligudde possessing tree-less plots, the KPTCL will not dispense compensation for the property on which the tower is being constructed. “Section 18 of the Act says that only if we cut fruit-bearing trees, or valuable trees such as teak are cut, do we give out compensation after they have been valued by the Horticulture Department or the Forest Department,” said Deepak, Executive Engineer, Major Works Division, Kavoor, KPTCL.

In these cases, the Act under Section 16, says that residents had to approach the district courts seeking compensation. However, Jalligudde residents told The Hindu that they would continue their fight legally to cancel the project, and in the event of an adverse verdict they would they seek compensation.

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