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Chamalapura valley under threat

R. Krishna Kumar

Coal-based thermal power project likely to render a large number of families landless



A VALLEY IN DANGER: A view of the valley around Chamalapura from atop the Malleshwara Betta. The valley faces danger as a thermal power plant is likely to come up in the area.

CHAMALAPURA (Mysore District): A drive up Malleshwara Betta provides a bird’s eye view of the valley below that is lush green with sugarcane fields and coconut trees.

The contours of Chamundi Hills are clearly visible from here. It is at a distance of 16 km as the crow flies. Towards southwest, you get a stunning view of the Western Ghats beyond which lies Wyanad on the one side and Kodagu on the other.

Within a radius of 35 km from Chamalapura is the pristine valley of Kodagu, and to its northeast is the tourist centre of Mysore that has been identified as the “least polluted” among cities Indian cities.

To the north of Chamalapura, over 2,000 elephants and other animals such as tigers and leopards and over 300 species of birds thrive in the jungles of Bandipur and Nagarahole national parks. In short, the region surrounding Chamalapura is a treasure trove of biodiversity apart from being endowed with a rich cultural heritage.

So it is not for nothing that Chamalapura is called “Kanasugarara Kanive” (dreamer’s valley) in local parlance. But the Government is pushing ahead with a coal-based thermal power plant here. It says, “the proposed project site is situated in an area without any forest and has a thin population and minimum impact on the environment is expected.”

The stage is set for another confrontation on the lines of Nandigrama in West Bengal, according to the people of Chamalapura who have vowed not to part with their land. “We will give up our lives but not our land” is their stand. The first of a series of public meetings planned against the project was held on Thursday in Chamalapura that is located in H.D. Kote taluk. The meeting convened by the former Minister and Congress leader M. Shivanna, Institute of Engineers Mysore Chapter president M. Lakshman, and members of the Association of Concerned and Informed Citizens of Mysore highlighted the perils out of the thermal power plant coming up in the area.

The people of Chamalapura have been kept in the dark about the project that will provide power to distant Bangalore. The Government’s Expression of Interest from power-generating companies has drawn response from 30 companies, including Tata Power, Reliance Energy, NTPC and Lanco. The proposed power project is to be built on public-private partnership and will require 3,000 acres of land that will be acquired from farmers.

The project is likely to affect more than 20,000 people who will be rendered landless. It has major environmental and cultural ramifications over which there has been no debate, and the Government has not conducted any public hearing nor has it carried out the mandatory Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).

The project requires not less than a million litres of water a day, which will be drawn from the Kabini, and over 600 tonnes of coal to operate the plant.

The environmental impact of the project is enormous as the valley surrounding Chamalapura is a catchment area for the Cauvery and the Kabini. The slurry from the thermal plant and tonnes of coal used to fuel the plant in open yards will pollute the rivers and jeopardise the existence of thousands of people living in the downstream of the two rivers.

This is only the tip of the iceberg. The southwest monsoon winds from here drive clouds towards Mysore and the discharge of fly ash from the power plant will result in acid rain.

While the Government is trying to promote the project, the negative impact on wildlife, flora and fauna, the rivers and lakhs of people within the vicinity including Mysore city, which is a tourist paradise seems to have been ignored. The public is waking up to the grim reality.

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