‘The pros and cons of project has been prepared'

The State government was resorting to “jugglery of words” when speaking about the Netravati diversion project and the Yettinahole project, member of the Western Ghats Task Force B.M. Kumaraswamy said here on Wednesday.

Speaking to The Hindu here on the sidelines of a programme organised by the task force and the Department of Forests, Mr. Kumaraswamy said the government was denying that there was any attempt to divert the Netravati, and instead it was saying that it would supply drinking water to Kolar, Chickballapur, Chitradurga and Bangalore Rural districts from the Yettinahole, a tributary of the Netravati, he said.

‘Wrong assumption'

The flow of the Netravati into the Arabian Sea in Dakshina Kannada “is not a political decision”, he said. He said river diversion was “unscientific and uneconomical” and that “riverine ecology had not been understood fully”. He said that river-linking was premised on the assumption that the water flowing into the sea was a waste. River-linking would also devastate fishing in the region, he said.

Mr. Kumaraswamy said no one knew what would be the ecological cost of such a project. Even the impact of companies such as Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals, and projects such the Mangalore Special Economic Zone had not been studied, he said. The project would be a “disaster” for the people of Dakshina Kannada, Mr. Kumaraswamy added.

Asked for an alternative, he said that arid regions were dependent on tanks “which collected the very last drop of rain”. Tanks needed to be rejuvenated. He said that river diversion should be the last resort to supply drinking water, not the first. He said that the task force had prepared a report on the pros and cons of river- linking and had come to the conclusion that it was not advisable.

Chairman of the task force Anant Hegde Ashisar said the task force was against the Netravati diversion project “in principle”. Unless the task force studied the detailed project report of the Yettinahole project, he could not comment on it, he said.

Rights of tribal people

Mr. Ashisar said there was a need to have a joint meeting of the departments of the Forests and Revenue to sort out the issues that forest-dwellers were facing in national parks. Until all the people living inside the national parks were rehabilitated, the government could facilitate the dwellers' claims on the forest, Mr. Ashisar said. He said that the task force planned to recommend that the Department of Forests amend its working plan at the circle level to ensure that forest-dwellers' rights were protected.