Govt. preparing a blueprint to allow hydel projects in Ghats: green NGO

The Forum for the Protection of Western Ghats (Karnataka) demanded that the candidate winning the Lok Sabha seat here should clearly state his position on the Yettinahole diversion project.

Addressing presspersons on Wednesday, member of the forum and independent candidate from the Dakshina Kannada Lok Sabha constituency, K.N. Somashekhar, said the run-up to the elections saw many promises being made on the issue. “We want the winning candidate to clearly state what he is doing to stop the project and protect the flora and fauna of the ghats,” he said, and added that political parties should be made to understand that the project was not just a regional issue, but one that could affect the water security of south India.

The forum said it was important to stop the project now, else numerous other projects would be slated. “There is tremendous opposition to the diversion project in Kolar, Chikballapur and Tumkur; not because of environmental reasons, but because they want the entire river to be diverted,” said Nagesh Angirasa, member.

To stop the exploitation of the ghats, he demanded the implementation of the Madhav Gadgil report, and not the “watered down” Kasturirangan report that allows “land grabbers to get a share of the pristine forests”.

In order to pressure the government into following the stricter terms of protection of the ghats, the forum released a Kannada book — written by environmentalist C. Yathiraju — on the importance of the ranges and elaboration on the two reports. Mr. Angirasa said the book will be released in six languages to cover communities living along the Western Ghats from Kerala to Gujarat.

Our Udupi Special Correspondent reports:

C. Yatiraju, convener of the Western Ghats Conservation Forum, said on Wednesday that the State government was silently preparing a blueprint to allow the setting up of hydel projects in the Western Ghats.

Addressing presspersons here, Mr. Yatiraju said that under the pretext of opposition by High Range Protection Council in Kerala, the Union government had diluted the provisions of the K. Kasturirangan report and made a draft announcement on March 10 in a hurry.

The draft announcement had been made bowing to the misleading propaganda and pressure of timber, mines, quarry and sand mafia of Kerala. Though the State spoke a lot about protecting farmers and forest dwellers in the Western Ghats, it had not provided individual rights or community rights on the lands used by the farmers or forest dwellers for the last six years. The government should immediately give title deeds to the small and very small farmers.

The Forum would conduct awareness programmes and seminars in the villages in six districts which had the Western Ghats. It would also launch a State-wide agitation against the failure of the State Government to protect the Western Ghats, Mr. Yatiraju said.

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