Law Commission to study Environment Laws Following the Supreme Court request in Dec. 2000, the Law Commission will be reviewing the whole range of environmental legislation in the country with a view to consolidate and codify. (THE TIMES OF INDIA 220302)
AP govt. to relax Environment laws In an attempt to improve the investment climate, PwC has suggested major changes in the EPA 1986. While the Act provides for multiple and surprise inspections, the govt. plans to introduce a system of common inspections under all pollution laws only once a year and surprise inspections in exceptional cases. (BUSINESS STANDARD 220302)
HP assembly for change in forest act The Himachal Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution urging the centre to amend the Indian Forest Conservation Act to empower the state govt. to grant permission to use forest land for development activities. (TRIBUNE 010302)
WE AWAIT YOUR RESPONSES I liked the piece on Uchangi Dam (Update 3). It is important to highlight such experiences as examples of positive approaches to resolving conflicts arising from water projects. Good luck.
Prof. A Vaidyanathan, Madras Institute for Development Studies, Chennai
Thank you very much for sending us issues on Update on Dams, Options and Related issues. We are finding this informative and we wish to continue to receive for the benefits of our students and faculty.
Update is an excellent publication fully packed with information required in our conservation movement. I wish you all the success.
VS Vijayan, Director, Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History, Mumbai
The UPDATE is quite appropriate, and it comes with a ‘perspective’, which I feel is very important. Once you go over each issue, definitely one would feel that one is learning the 'actuals' since at one place and at one go, it gives information from a broad spectrum of sources. Importantly, we get a national picture, which is missing, in most of the publications.
However, I feel the layout, the colour, and other aspects need to be made more attractive. The Update has to lie on the top of the pile. You can also add your viewpoint or other viewpoint on current issues. We need a short essay or comment on water sector in India. I liked the last pages in both the issues, about the World Bank projects and data on projects.
D Narasimha Reddy, Executive Director, Centre for Resource Education, Hyderabad
KARNATAKA’S BLUFF: THE MAHADAYI DAMS On Fool’s Day, the National Water Resources Council chaired by the Prime Minister adopted the NWP 2002. As far as Karnataka is concerned, the PM’s speech could not be more perfectly timed! For years, the State’s decision makers have fooled around with its natural resources, particularly its rivers. This time it’s a game not everyone wants to play.
Pursued with increasing intensity since 1998, Karnataka’s latest obsession is the resurrection of a project dreamt up in the early eighties - the Mahadayi Diversion Project, in Belgaum district of North Karnataka. However neighbouring Goa has opposed the plan and with good reason. Originating in a profusion of over 30 streams in the jungles of the Western Ghats at Degaon village of Belgaum, the Mahadayi runs a total length of over 80 kms with a catchment of 2008 sq kms of which 445 sq kms is within Karnataka. It crosses rainforests and the Sahyadri crestline to enter Goa as the celebrated Mandovi – Goa’s lifeline and main inland waterway, and finally meets the Arabian Sea at Panjim.
Three Goa-Karnataka meetings with the Central Water Commission to facilitate a decision on the project have ended in a stalemate each time. The latest meeting with the CWC held on the 27 March 2002 resulted in an adjournment till June.
The rationale for the Mahadayi Diversion Scheme is to salvage from blunder Karnataka’s the Malaprabha Dam at Naveelteerth (there are more dams down stream!) on the Malaprabha River – an east flowing tributary of the River Krishna. This dam was designed to meet 90% drinking water needs and 10% irrigation needs. Now, this proportion has been reversed with the dam catering largely to water guzzling sugarcane instead. The fact that the Malaprabha Dam’s capacity was an over estimation by a whooping 36%, has been exposed. It has a capacity of 47 TMC but receives only 30 TMC and has filled to capacity only 3 times in the last 25 years! The absurdity is compounded by the fact that it looses 7.8 TMC (26%) of water from leakages for close to a decade now as the Minister himself revealed to the press!
The Minister’s fantasy project on the Mahadayi involves the construction of six diversion dams with a total length of 1.6 km, 6.4 kms of tunnels through forested ridges and 3.5 km of open channels. Consolidated figures of areas lost to submergence for the entire project: 1720 Ha of forestland, with an additional 400 Ha of agricultural land. Aside from destroying the entire Mahadayi and the ecological wealth around it, just what this ‘Malaprabha Cover-up Scheme’ foretells for Goa’s Mandovi is anybody’s guess.
Ironically this project has been sited in the finest stretch of the Western Ghats. There exists a plethora of communication between the Ministry of Environment and Forests at the Centre and the Karnataka State Govt. on the need to protect exactly this region. The final outcome of this exchange and dialogue was a clear directive from the Centre, followed by a decision of top Forest and Wildlife officials of the State to declare the region as the Bhimgad Wildlife Sanctuary.
The Mahadayi Valley is the habitat of the Wroughton’s Freetailed Bat recorded nowhere else in the world but in the Barapedi cave of Talewadi a totally evolved grassland ecosystem. This species is listed in the IUCN Red List of Critically Endangered Species. The Theobald’s Tomb Bat is another species found 2 kms away at Krishnapur, which is its third only home in India. Such close proximity of species’ sites is an indication of the rich biodiversity of Mahadayi valley. The Mahadayi Dams will be definite violations of the highest environmental and wildlife laws of the country. Specifically, neither Forest Clearance nor environmental clearances have been obtained. The affected Panchayats have recorded their opposition to this project. Information on the project is well - concealed. Mandatory Public hearings have not been conducted, and NEERI’s Environment Impact Assessment Report is nowhere to be found. Lamentably the Karnataka Irrigation Minister continues to his claim of having ‘obtained’ all the required environmental clearances.
Leading environmental organisations including the WWF, IUCN, BNHS, etc have strongly advocated legal protection for
this region. In Sept. 2000, a Committee appointed by the MoEF identified an extensive list of criterion to declare regions ‘Ecologically Sensitive Areas’ as per provisions of the Environment (Protection) Act. The contiguous forests of this region fulfill at least ten of the thirteen criteria when it takes fulfillment of just one criterion to merit such declaration!
Meanwhile the NWP2002 is being criticized extensively. What about the longstanding protests rising from the forests and villages like Nerse, Ashoknagar, the latter being victims of double displacement – first being oustees of the Hidkal Dam. The message to the Centre is that as far as the serious action for safeguarding the country’s life giving ecological resources is concerned, every day is Fool’s Day for the merry State of Karnataka.
About the Authors:Nyla Coelho and Aarthi Sridhar are members of the Sahyadri Ecologically Sensitive Area (SESA) Group