Staff Correspondent

More than 35 villages will be submerged if it is implemented, says the former Minister

Environmentalists sayThe project will cause great damage to the Hemavathi and the Nethravathi Cutting of trees will add to elephant menace in Alur, Sakleshpur and Arkalgud taluks

HASSAN: The former Minister B. Shivaram has urged Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy to reconsider the Government's decision to set up the Gundia hydroelectric project. The project, designed to generate 300 MW of power, will come up in Sakleshpur taluk in the district.

In a release here on Saturday, Mr. Shivaram said he had sent a letter to the Chief Minister a year ago, urging him to reconsider the decision since public opinion was against it. Besides local villagers, various environmental organisations across the State too had opposed the project in view of the impact it could have on the flora and fauna of the Western Ghats, he said.

The Western Ghats has been identified as one of the 18 biodiversity hotspots in the world. Environmentalists feel the project will cause great damage to the Hemavathi and the Nethravathi rivers. Cutting of trees would add to the elephant menace in Alur, Sakleshpur and Arkalgud taluks. Since the project would break the elephant corridor, the pachyderms would stray into private plantations and cultivated areas, Mr. Shivaram said.

According to an estimate, 1,200 hectares of forest land would face threat and more than 35 villages would be submerged if the project was implemented, he added.

Mr. Shivaram said the project would lead to another environmental disaster for the people of Hassan, who were reeling under the impact of the Bagur-Navile irrigation scheme. The Government should stop meddling with the Western Ghats in the name of development. Otherwise, the district would face a major drinking water problem, he said.

Mr. Shivaram said he was against evacuation of people for "it would create more problems in the days to come.

It would be difficult to find suitable land in and around the district for rehabilitating the displaced, he said.

The "padayatra" carried out by environmental organisations led by Malenadu Janapara Horata Samithi against the project had been successful, he added.