Saturday, December 20, 2008

Work by Karnataka Neeravari Nigam Ltd to divert waters of Kalsa tributary of Mhadei river to the Malaprabha basin continues on a war
footing despite Karnataka government's assurance to the Supreme Court of maintaining status quo in the matter. Besides, the work has now extended into areas of private forest in Kankumbi. The project, envisaging excavation of a canal at Kankumbi to link the Kalsa tributary to Malaprabha river, had started two years ago. Presently, the work is allegedly damaging the reserve forest. "By dumping the massive quantities of mud in the reserve forest areas under survey No 59 and 60 at Kankumbi, Karnataka has grossly violated ForestConservation Act 1980 and Wildlife Protection Act 1972" Colonel Ravinder Kumar Saini, a representative of Paryavarani, a Belgaum-based organisation said. Goa government and Mhadei Bachao Abhiyan had filed two separate cases before the Supreme Court alleging illegalities in sensitive areas of the western ghats. The Karnataka government had assured that it would maintain status quo in the matter in connection with one of the Goa petitions. The matter filed by MBA is scheduled for hearing on January 15, 2009. Karnataka is also widening the course of Malaprabha river to divert the water to Bailhongal and other areas. "The diversion will cause grave harm to water security and ecological security of Goa" Nirmala Sawant, convenor, MBA said. The villagers of Kankumbi and surrounding villages are also agitated over the project, as their agricultural fields have been partly destroyed. They have also expressed their apprehension over the possible depletion of the water table in the area. Baban Dalvi, president of Mauli Devasthan Committee, Kankumbi said, "Karnataka Neeravari Nigam Ltd, has commenced the project without our consent or without paying proper compensation." The villagers have brought the matter to the notice of concerned authorities, but alleged that no action has been initiated to sort it out. Karnataka's project is aimed at augmenting the deficit in Malaprabha Reservoir at Navalthirth, by diverting 3.56 TMC feet of water from Kalsa. This involves the construction of a dam at Kambarves across Kalasa nalla near Kankumbi. Karnataka had resumed work on canals at Kunmumbi and Talwadi villages in Belgaum district two years ago. For the construction of dam and canals, however, there is need of diversion of forest land admeasuring 258 hectares. But till date, Karnataka has not obtained permission from the Ministry of Environment and Forests. Also in April 2002 the Central Water Resource Department had kept in abeyance the letter allowing Karnataka to divert 7.56 TMC feet of water. However, in spite of this, Karnataka has continued with it's illegalities, said Nirmala Sawant at Kankumbi in Karnataka. Various farmers bodies from Hubli-Dharwad region have been agitating in a bid to prevail upon the state government to expedite the work as they would be benefited from the project. Karnataka has adopted the stand that no clearance is needed from the Centre or Goa's opinion to be considered as the project cost was less than Rs. 50 crore. "Karnataka's approach and attitude in diverting Kalsa tributary is totally undemocratic and illegal since they require the permission of MOEF to utilise the reserve forest first and then to start the work" says Colonel Ravinder Kumar Saini.

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