Karnataka

Upper Krishna Project Stage-III gets green signal

The height of the Almatti dam will increase by .

The height of the Almatti dam will increase by .   | Photo Credit: rajendrasinghhajeri

It received environmental clearance almost eight years after construction was proposed

The long-pending Upper Krishna Project (UKP) Stage-III, which would increase the height of the Almatti dam and allow for complete utilisation of Karnataka’s Krishna river water allocation, has received environmental clearance nearly eight years after its construction was proposed.

On January 28, the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) for River Valley and Hydroelectric Projects of the Ministry of Environment and Forests approved the proposal with a condition that a minimum of 7 tmc of water should be released as environment flow during lean seasons.

The project had been deferred multiple times during previous EAC meetings as concerns over submergence and changes in hydrology of the river were raised.

The proceedings of the meeting, which were released recently, notes that eventually the member secretary of the committee said that the project was being implemented in drought-prone areas of Hyderabad-Karnataka region and its approval will “help speedy implementation of the project to benefit the larger community”.

“It is a big win for us, considering the opposition we faced in the committee over the past four years. Now we have to wait for this approval to be gazetted for any sort of construction activity to begin,” said a senior official from the Krishna Bhagya Jala Nigama Ltd. (KJNL), which is implementing the project.

Project

The planning of the ₹51,000-crore Stage III started in 2011, a year after the Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal-II allotted 177 TMC to Karnataka.

UKP-III would utilise 130 TMC of this allotted water, and is an extension of the first two phases of the project.

While Stage I construction is complete (which included the construction of Almatti dam by 2005), Stage II is under construction. Both these stages, which were first envisioned in the 1990s, have been planned to bring 6.13 lakh hectares under irrigation through an extensive canal network.

UKP-III will extend this to a further 5.3 lakh hectares in four districts of north Karnataka.

Among the components is to increase the full reservoir level of the Almatti dam by nearly 5 metres to 524 m. This would increase storage from 123.5 TMC to nearly 200 TMC.

However, in the process, more than 30.8 sq km of land and 22 villages are expected to be submerged.

The Environment Impact Assessment report in 2017 shows that parts of Bagalkot town may also be submerged.

It is expected to cost the State government ₹30,000 crore to rehabilitate over 23,000 families; while dam works is to cost just ₹12 crore.

R&R

“The gates are ready and we can install it within two months. However, the law states that R&R should be done six months prior to increasing storage. A Cabinet subcommittee had recently finalised land purchase schemes and implementing this will take time,” said a KBJNL official.

The project will require 214 hectares of forest land and the process of approval will commence along with the start of construction, said officials.

Threat of violation

The process of environmental clearance, which started in 2014, seemed to have derailed soon after. While public hearings and Environment Impact Assessment reports were made, the Expert Appraisal Committee “seriously considered” whether UKP-III was a “project in violation”. Sources said WAPCOS, the Centre-owned entity that conducted the EIA, believed that as the pump houses built for Stage II had components built for Stage III, the project should be considered as having started without prior environmental clearance.

“This was a major crisis. We attempted to convince them saying that when we built foundations for pump houses for UKP-II, we had to consider their use for UKP-III too. If the committee had decided that it was indeed a violation, then any clearance would have taken two years, apart from a threat of penalty of more than ₹7 crore,” said an official from KBJNL.

Through 2017 and 2018, KBJNL made multiple presentations to the EAC and even sought the help of Karnataka MPs, Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy, and even met Union Ministers for Water Resources and Environment.

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Printable version | Feb 17, 2020 7:49:21 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/upper-krishna-project-stage-iii-gets-green-signal/article26432965.ece

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