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Decision on Chamalapura plant in a month: Minister

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SEEKING PUBLIC OPINION: Minister for Power K.S. Eshwarappa at a public hearing on the Chamalapura power plant, in Mysore on Sunday.
SEEKING PUBLIC OPINION: Minister for Power K.S. Eshwarappa at a public hearing on the Chamalapura power plant, in Mysore on Sunday.

Special Correspondent

Eshwarappa says there has been no progress on the project

Opinion of experts and those opposed to project to be sought

Minister says BJP will not go against sentiments of local community

MYSORE: A decision on the coal-fired thermal power plant at Chamalapura will be taken in a month after taking into cognisance the views and sentiments of the local community and the general public.

Speaking at a public hearing convened to assess the mood of the local people, Minister for Power K.S. Eshwarappa said the Government would seek the opinion of experts and officials as also those opposed to the project before taking a decision. At this juncture, no tender application has been received nor has there been any progress on the project, the Minister said.

Though the previous Government favoured the project, the Bharatiya Janata Party will not go against the sentiments of the local community, Mr. Eshwarappa said.

When pointed out that adhering to public will and respecting local sentiments could only mean dropping the project, Mr. Eshwarappa said that was a distinct possibility but nevertheless an official decision had to be taken only after consulting officials and experts.

The coal-fired 1,250-MW thermal power plant at Chamalapura entails an investment of Rs. 5,000 crore, acquisition of over 1,500 acres of land and displacement of nearly 20,000 people. The project has evoked widespread opposition from the people in and around Mysore.

Advice

Sources close to the Minister said the local leadership of the BJP has advised the Minister against the project and in all probability the Chamalapura power project may be disbanded.

At the meeting convened here on Sunday, over 400 people, including members of the Mysore Grahakara Parishat, Association of Concerned and Informed Citizens of Mysore, Karnataka Rakshana Vedike, Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha, environmentalists including U.N. Ravikumar, Vivek Cariappa, Balasubramaniam, the former Minister M. Shivanna and others were present. Mr. Lakshman of the ACICM apprised the Minister of the geographical location of Chamalapura, which, he said, was situated between the Cauvery and the Kabini river basin and hence any pollution would wreak havoc on millions of people. He drew attention of Mr. Eshwarappa of the environmental sensitivity of Chamalapura flanked by three forests including two major national parks — Bandipur and Nagarahole — which were prestigious Project Tiger reserves.

Memorandum

In a memorandum submitted to the Minister, the Environment Support Group urged the Government to drop the project as it is fraught with serious social and environmental impact.

The group said certain critical areas were overlooked by the State agencies and hence it was a fit case for investigation.

The memorandum drew attention of the Minister to the recommendations of the Karnataka Electricity Regulatory Commission. The KERC initiated a series of public hearings apart from conducting a site visit.

It was pointed out that the siting guidelines were disregarded. According to the guidelines, no power plant can come up within 25 km of the outer peripheries of national parks and sanctuaries and Chamalapura was within a 20 km distance of Nagarahole and Bandipur National Parks, the group said.

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