The Western Ghats are in danger. Numerous projects have been proposed in the name of development in the ecologically fragile zone without taking into account the important roles forests play in regulating climate, recharging rivers, and sequestering carbon.
The Western Ghats are a global biodiversity hotspot and the source of rivers that cover 40% of India. It is home to thousands of plant and animal species, many of which are endemic to the region. It is called the ‘Protector of Peninsular India’, regulating climate and rainfall. The region is also home to many indigenous communities who depend on forest produce for survival.
In this article, let’s look at just five out of the many projects set to destroy the ecology of Western Ghats in Karnataka:
A 2000 MW Hydroelectric Project is proposed to be built on the Sharavathi River. It falls in the core area of the protected Sharavathi LTM Sanctuary. The Sharavathi River is already heavily dammed—it has a total of 7 dams and 5 tunnels, currently providing 40% of Karnataka’s hydroelectric power. Experts fear that another project would spell doom for the river. Hydel power projects, especially large ones, are not as green as once thought to be. Emerging research shows how hydro projects increase flood vulnerability, affect aquatic life, submerge large tracts of forests, displace vulnerable populations and release large amounts of methane.
This ₹25,000 crore project aims to divert the flow of Yettinahole stream towards water-scarce districts of Kolar, Hassan, Chikkaballapur, Bengaluru Rural. The government has failed to conduct any public consultation or Environment Impact Assessment for the project despite it falling in densely forested regions of the Western Ghats. It claims that drinking water projects are exempt from such procedures, but project documents show how this water will be used for irrigation and industry as well, thus it is not just a drinking water project. Studies also show that the project has overestimated the river flow of the Yettinahole stream, and that there isn’t more than 0.85 TMC excess water that can be diverted, while project documents claim 24 TMC water can be diverted.
Two reactors of 700 MW each have been proposed in densely forested Kaiga region to increase the overall capacity of the existing nuclear plant. The project is expected to destroy almost 120 hectares of forest land with 8700 trees being cut in an ecologically sensitive area. It will use an additional 75,000 cubic meters of water per hour from the adjacent Kali river. Apart from this, the radiation contamination will pollute the river, further degrade the overall biodiversity and also affect the health of human population in the vicinity.
Estimates reveals that Karnataka is set to lose 7.35 lakh trees due to upcoming highway and highway expansion projects, most of it in the Western Ghats. The 230 km Mangaluru- Chitradurga Project (NH-173) is one of them. Shishila-Byrapura is the first phase of this route, and it will result in the felling of 50,000 to 1 lakh trees. It encroaches upon an elephant corridor, which might exacerbate human-elephant conflict in the region. The route also threatens the course of rivulets that originate in the area of the proposed road and flow into Nethravathi river.
The Hubballi Ankola Project, recently stayed by the High Court of Karnataka, was set to destroy more than 1.6 lakh trees in over 596 hectares of densely forested land. Home to threatened species like the Lion Tailed Macaque, tiger, Great Hornbill, the fragmentation of the forest by this project would result in dwindling of these populations and increased train-hit deaths of wildlife. Ecologists were also concerned about how the project would affect rivers Kali, Gangaavali, which provide drinking water to Dharwad and Uttara Kannada regions. Increase in landslides, floods, droughts were also feared from the massive ecological damage the project would cause.
Western Ghats is the Pride of India. It is the Pride of Karnataka. Let is preserve our natural heritage.
Come join us at @fridaysforfuture.karnataka to join the #SaveWesternGhats campaign today!