people from Uttar Karnataka's Dandeli town are opposing a move to draw water from the Kali river for a sugar mill proposed downstream. They say the factory will use up water meant for them. The Bharat Sugar Mills factory is trying to bring water from upstream since the river dries up downstream.
The company is digging the forest for a pipeline to bring water from the Kali. On October 19, the people staged a protest. "We will not allow this. The river is our only source of water," says Ajit Naik of the Dandeli Bachao Andolan Samiti, organisation spearheadind the agitation. The river is already threatened. Much of the water in the river has been dammed to generate power and the rest has been heavily polluted by effluents from the nearby West Coast Paper Mill, he adds. Forest officials say they are helpless since the chief judicial magistrate of the neighbouring Yellapur taluka has recently lifted a ban imposed by a lower court on the digging work in the forest.
The protestors say the factory violates forest laws. "About 60 trees have been felled," says N Jayachandran, a journalist. This is in violation of the conditions on which the factory was given approval by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (moef). On October 16, the people had complained to the forest department on the alleged offence. The department, however, denied tree-felling.
moef had asked the company to compensate for the degraded forest. It had also said the water supply should not affect the environment and digging work should be done manually. The company paid the compensation amount, but the forest department is yet to find land for the compensatory afforestation mandated by moef.
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