Jog Falls project suffers setback as Centre asks Karnataka about impact assessment

Jog Falls development project split into smaller components to portray minimal impact in a bid to secure mandatory clearances, alleges Living Earth Foundation (LEAF) 

Updated - May 05, 2022 05:33 pm IST

Published - May 05, 2022 05:23 pm IST - MYSURU

Jog Falls in Sagar taluk of Shivamogga district in Karnataka lies amidst the fragile ecosystem of the Western Ghats.

Jog Falls in Sagar taluk of Shivamogga district in Karnataka lies amidst the fragile ecosystem of the Western Ghats. | Photo Credit: VAIDYA

Karnataka’s Forest Department, which was supportive of the Jog Development Projects and had recommended ‘in principal approval’ of environmental clearance for a five-star hotel, suffered a setback with the Centre questioning whether any environmental impact study has been carried out.

Karnataka had submitted a proposal seeking diversions of 0.8536 hectares of forest land in Nadavada Talakalale village in Sagar taluk for the five-star hotel in lieu of the existing PWD guest house. The hotel was in addition to development of other facilities in the Jog Falls area.

But the Regional Empowered Committee (REC) of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) has not only sought additional clarifications and details of the project but has also pointed out that the proposed development is amidst the fragile ecosystem of the Western Ghats. In a letter dated April 22, 2022, it has sought to know whether any environmental study has been conducted about the impact, and any precautionary measures have been incorporated in the proposed activities.

The MoEF & CC also referred to a set of objections filed by Living Earth Foundation (LEAF), a Bengaluru-based environmental research and advocacy organisation, and sought comments on its representation.

The Karnataka Government had sought to demolish the existing PWD guest house to make way for a five-star hotel. The MoEF & CC has sought to know whether any approval was taken under Forest Conservation Act 1980 for construction of the existing structure on forest land.

Other projects

The LEAF had written to the REC that forest clearance sought was for a 5-star hotel, but the project was not a mere standalone hotel. It entails development of Jog Falls as a tourist destination by constructing retail outlets, view decks, central island and landscape work, a ropeway, a grand entrance and a dedicated transit hub.

LEAF said each component of the project is dependent on another to fulfil the larger objective of making Jog Falls a destination for all seasons. However, for the purpose of obtaining Forest and Environmental Clearance, the project plan has been broken into several components, and statutory clearances have been sought in a piecemeal manner in a deliberate attempt to portray minimal impact by each component of the project plan.

All the components of the project involve significant amount of construction on forest land within the Eco Sensitive Zone of the newly expanded Sharavati Valley Lion Tailed Macaque Sanctuary.

The LEAF also expressed concern that the Jog Development Project prima facie appears to be an area and township development project, and stated that the individual components of the project are being pursued as standalone works for the purpose of securing statutory clearances under the law.

Stress on environment

LEAF also stated that the increase in footfalls to the area throws up additional challenges like water consumption, increase in wet and dry waste, additional vehicular traffic and emission, lighting in the forest area due to vehicles, and no study had been conducted on their impact on wildlife.

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