New group formed to oppose the Netravati river diversion project

Local political leaders, environmental groups, organisations of farmers and fishermen have banded together to up the ante against the Nethravati diversion project.

Addressing reporters on Friday, the former MLA K. Vijaykumar Shetty said the new Nethravati Protection Committee was formed after several “false assurances from political leaders” to oppose the project which will divert 24tmc of water from the source of Nethravati.

“We want the Ministers, political representatives, farmers, fishermen from both sides of the debate to participate in a discussion along with technical experts to clarify on the project. With elections nearing, it seems like this project is being hastily fast-tracked,” he said.

The committee believes the project will suffer the same fate as the Varahi irrigation project in Udupi and Upper Krishna Project which werer stalled after thousands of crores had been spent.

Distributing documents obtained through the Right To Information Act, Mr. Shetty said while Karnataka Neeravari Nigama Limited (KNNL), implementing the project, has not yet conducted a detailed survey on the potential damage, the Forest Department had not “received any order from the State government” to carry out a survey of the potential submerged land or wildlife in the affected area.

The committee will hold a puja (prayer) at the banks of the river at Shri Venkataram Temple in Bantwal on January 14 to signify the religious and cultural importance of Nethravati in the district.

Terming the project technically infeasible, S.G. Mayya, Professor of Applied Mechanics at the National Institute of Technology Karnataka – Surathkal, said only around 8tmc could be drawn from the river. “Though the project is being sold as aiding Chikballapur and Kolar, these two districts are being given the lowest priority in the scheme. Only industrial estates will benefit from the project,” he said.

Representing fishermen’s organisations, Vasudev Boloor said the reduction in flow of Nethravati will affect the fish population which lay eggs at the mouth of the river, while Rohitaksha Rai of Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha believed the project will hurt agriculture in the region.

Congressmen to meet CM:

Though the Congress is leading the government in the State, the protests of party workers against the Nethravati diversion project is being sacrificed at the altar of politics, said All India Congress Committee Secretary P.V. Mohan.

Talking to reporters on the sidelines of the day-long hunger strike on Friday, Mr. Mohan said the opinions of Dakshina Kannada were being ignored as Nethravati was an intra-state river. “It must be remembered that Coastal Karnataka, under Madras Presidency, had agreed for unification with the plains of the State. The politicians from the plains cannot betray the people of the Coast when it comes to Nethravati,” he said.

He expressed disappointment that Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, during his visit to the district in September, had reneged on his promise to hold a consultation meet with citizens here about the project. “We will take a delegation of activists to remind him of his promise,” he said.

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