Niren Jain urges citizens to petition CM to axe river diversion project

Sounding the bugle of caution and protest, naturalists and environmentalists said the proposed Yettinahole diversion project will irreparably damage the fragile eco-system of the Western Ghats.

Addressing an awareness programme organised by the Karavali Chitrakala Chavadi here on Tuesday, environmentalist and coordinator for the Kudremukh Wildlife Foundation Niren Jain said the project was being executed bypassing the stringent forest laws.

“Why Nethravati? It’s the largest intra-state river… there is no need for the State government to take the opinions of people, or for extensive environment impact assessment reports”.

He went on “The State government claims that each project will require less than ten acres of land. However, what they don’t tell you is the damage to the streams due to silt accumulation, additional space needed to dump debris during construction, laying of pipes, power lines and roads across the forest,” he said.

The forests would be fragmented, affecting the movement of wildlife.

Mr Jain said the proposal can only be thwarted if citizens write to the Chief Minister, Forest Minister to either withdraw the project or declare the Nethravati River Sanctuary as a National Park. The project was being labelled differently to “fool” the people: first as Yettinahole, instead of the river Nethravati and second, calling it a drinking water project, when it in fact, diverts the waters to minor irrigation channels and industries.

Artist and activist Dinesh Holla said the Paramashivaiah report, on which the project is based, ignores the importance of Shola Forests (grasslands) of the ghats, terming them as barren lands. “These are very important as they absorb moisture and allow for the rivers to be perennial. These will now be submerged in the project,” he said.

Fight blurs party lines

The Belthangady Taluk Hitarakshana Vedike, which comprises different political parties, has asked the government to take people into confidence before going ahead with the project.

Pratap Simha Nayak, president of the vedike who is also the district president of the BJP, said the government must cancel the project until the merits and demerits of the project is discussed with the people of the district. “At least 100 village-level interactions must be held to gather the opinions of the people,” he said. The vedike will hold meetings with the Congress-led government as well as senior leaders of their own political parties.

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