The High Court of Karnataka on Thursday imposed a rider on the State government and Cauvery Neeravari Nigam Ltd. (CNNL) over the project of diverting the current course of Vrishabhavathi river to construct a diversion weir and channel to prevent flow of contaminated river water to Byramangala tank located in Ramanagaram taluk.
The court made it clear that further works of the project would be subject to court’s orders, while restraining the State and its authorities from felling more trees for the project, work of which has already been started. A Division Bench comprising Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice Hemant Chandangoudar passed the order on a PIL petition filed by Bangalore Environment Trust, Bengaluru and others.
The petitioners said that the project was taken up at an initial cost of ₹110 crore by CNNL. Around 500 million litres of toxic, frothing waste water is proposed to be diverted unscientifically from Byramangala tank directly to downstream rivers, thereby not only destroying the tank completely but also worsening the quality of water of Arkavati and Vrishabhavati rivers.
“The project is undertaken arbitrarily without any scientific basis with bathymetric studies or study of the viability of the project within the river basin or the environmental impacts caused by diverting the natural flow of the river on the whole river basin or the economic impact upon the farmers and other villagers whose livelihood is entirely dependent upon the waste water of the Byramangala lake,” the petitioners alleged.
Pointing out that it is not a drain or sewage outfall to be diverted casually as it is a minor river flowing 69 km before joining the major river Arkavati, which ultimately joins river Cauvery, the petitioners claimed that the project does more damage than good.
Ironically, the petitioners have contended that the project irreversibly damages the ecology of the very tank it intends to protect, and construction of concrete diversion canal across the lake bed significantly reduces the lake area.