a recent move of the Union ministry of environment and forests (moef) to 'review' its previously rejected forest clearance to the 18-mw Dandeli mini-hydel power project on Kali river in Karnataka's Uttar Kannada district has raked up a controversy.
While moef claims that the state government has furnished 'fresh evidence' in support of the project, environmentalists allege all rules are being circumvented to clear it. Questions are being raised as to why, within weeks of rejecting the project, moef has decided to review its decision.
On June 21 this year, moef rejected the diversion of 57.51 ha of forest land in favour of Murdeshwar Power Corporation Ltd (mpcl) citing environmental concerns.The state forest department had also refused clearance. But within three weeks, on July 11, Sandeep Kumar, assistant inspector general of forests, moef, wrote to the principal secretary, Karnataka department of forests, ecology and environment (dofee), saying a 'review' would be undertaken during the forest advisory committee (fac) meeting on July 31.
The basis of the review 'fresh evidence'. "The fact that the forest clearance was rejected on June 21, implies that all material presented to it prior to this date was considered for forming this rejection," says Leo F Saldhana, coordinator of Bangalore-based Environment Support Group.
According to sources, fac met on July 31, but the meeting remained inconclusive because there was no representative of the Karnataka government. Meanwhile, the undersecretary, forest department, has written a letter to the divisional forest officer, saying a public consultation will be organised soon in preparation for the next fac meeting. Environmentalists allege that no information on time or a venue has been given.
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