R. Krishna Kumar
Environmental clearance was issued for a smaller power plant of 500 MW capacity at the same site
The clearance was issued subject to terms and conditions
The project has evoked widespread opposition from various sections of society
MYSORE: The Ministry of Environment and Forests had rejected environmental clearance for the proposed 1,000 MW power plant for Chamalapura in August 1998, according to the records now available.
However, it had issued environmental clearance for a smaller power plant of 500 MW capacity at the same venue.
But the environmental clearance was issued based on the information provided by the project proponents, and it is clear from the records that the Ministry had not conducted an independent environmental impact assessment (EIA) during that period.
Moreover, the clearance was issued to Mysore Power Generation Private Ltd subject to terms and conditions. This information was provided by the Ministry to Syed Tanviruddin of the Karanji and Siddarthanagar Tax Payers’ Association. Mr. Tanviruddin had urged the Ministry not to accord clearance to the Chamalapura power project, which is now being promoted under a different entity by the State Government.
The Ministry furnished details of the previous environmental clearance issued by it in response to his petition.
The previous clearance may not be applicable to the present project in view of the difference and scope of the project (the proposed new project is of 1,350 MW capacity). So the moot question is: when the Ministry had rejected environmental clearance for a 1,000 MW power plant, how can the State Government and the Power Company of Karnataka Ltd (PCKL) push the new project of 1,350 MW capacity?
The Ministry had come out with certain conditions which had to be complied with by the project proponents and one of the norms was that the land acquisition should be only to the extent required for a power plant of 500 MW plant and not more. The current project of 1,350 MW capacity requires more than 2,000 acres of land and is set to displace nearly 20,000 farmers in the vicinity of the project affected area.
In the light of the above information, activists opposed to the project now wonder if the authorities were trying to push the power plant at Chamalapura on the basis of the previous environmental clearance which, however, was issued only to power plant of a smaller capacity.
Equally pertinent is the Ministry’s note that it asserted its right to revoke the clearance in case any of the terms and conditions stipulated by it was not implemented and underlined the fact that if there was any deviation or alteration in the project proposed from those submitted, then a fresh reference should be made to assess the project.
The correspondence between Mr. Tanviruddin and the Ministry indicates that the latter has confused his request against issuing environmental clearance for the new proposal, with the earlier proposal for which a conditional clearance had already been issued.
But it merits repetition that the clearance was for a smaller plant of a different capacity based on which the project proponents cannot push for the proposed 1,350 MW power plant.
Mired in controversy ever since it was proposed last year, the project has evoked widespread opposition from various sections of society, including litterateurs such as U.R. Ananathamurthy, Devanuru Mahadev, academics, environmental groups, NGOs, students, etc. The Karnataka Government had justified the choice of Chamalapura on the grounds that the area was a “barren land” but a visit to the project site proves otherwise.
An environmentally sensitive zone, Chamalapura is also a major catchment for Kabini which is hardly a few kilometres in the downstream and risks being polluted by flyash. Located hardly 25 km from the tourist destination of Mysore, the region is also close to Bandipur and Nagarahole national parks which are prestigious tiger and elephant reserves.