Dam near reserve

By Nidhi Jamwal
Published: Saturday 15 November 2008

CEC sends notice to Karnataka

A SUPREME Court-appointed committee has asked the Karnataka government to clarify whether the Kalsa-Bhandura irrigation project was violating forest and wildlife laws.

The Central Empowered Commit tee, appointed to monitor forest related cases, recently issued a notice to the Karnataka government, following a petition filed by a Belgaum-based ngo.

The project aims to divert water of the Mhadei river to meet the drinking water and irrigation needs of north Karnataka (see 'Karnataka begins building Kalasa-Bandurinala irrigation project', Down To Earth, January 15, 2007). The Mhadei originates in the Western Ghats in Karnataka and flows into Goa, which has almost 70 per cent of the river basin.

The ngo brought to the notice of the committee how diversion of the Mhadei's water would lead to complete stoppage of water supply to Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary in Goa. Also, the dams would come up barely 100 metres from the boundary of the sanctuary for which permission has not been taken from the chief wildlife warden of Goa. Such a permission is mandatory under the wildlife act.

The forest conservation act also outlines that if a project involves even a small piece of forest land, it needs clearance from the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests. It also says that work in non-forest area cannot be undertaken unless permission from the Centre is taken.

"Without taking permissions, Karnataka has dug canals and will soon begin dam construction. This project will adversely affect water supply and wildlife in Goa," said Shrihari Kugaji, an environmentalist associated with Paryavarni, the ngo that filed the petition.

The state had filed a suit in 2006 in the Supreme Court, demanding a stay on the project till a water tribunal was set up. The matter is pending before the court but Karnataka is going ahead with the construction work, he said.

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