Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Gundia Hydro Electric Project

Date: 25th May 2009
Shri. B.S. Yeddyurappa
H’ble Chief Minister and
Minister of Forests and Environment
Government of Karnataka
Vidhana Soudha
Bengaluru – 560 001

The Honorable Chief Minister Sri.Yeddyurappa, amidst protests by local communities, environmentalists and others, has laid the foundation stone on Saturday 23rd May 2009 for the Gundia Hydro Electric Project (GHEP) located amidst the serene and ecologically fragile Western Ghats.

The action of the Karnataka Power Corporation Limited (KPCL) in going ahead with the launch of the project is illegal since the project is yet to get clearance from the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF). This is in violation of the order of the honorable Supreme Court which mandates compulsory permission from MoEF for undertaking Non-Forestry activities in Forest areas. Breaking the law cannot be the example set by the head of a state.

Further, the Honorable Chief Minister and KPCL contend that the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) has been carried out by an independent agency. A Bangalore based agency has been hired by the Project promoters for carrying out the EIA and hence can hardly be considered as ‘independent’. And moreover the EIA report is also ridden with high technical irregularities regarding Flora and Fauna of the area to mislead the general public. The GHEP area has several endangered animals, birds and vegetation as recorded by various scientific studies including Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Wildlife Conservation Society – India Program and is identified as an area of irreplaceable value for biodiverdity in the entire Western Ghats.


The above statement is unsubstantiated, no field study or literature study has been undertaken by the EIA to state that there are no migratory faunal species observed in the area. While most of the mega fauna found in the GHEP area such as tiger, elephant, lion-tailed macaque are species with large home ranges migrating over large areas (elephant, tiger and lion-tailed macaques are all highly endangered animals, listed in Schedule1 of the Wildlife Protection Act which gives it utmost priority for protection). Their movement ranges over several sq. kms. and signs of Tigers, elephant are found all over the GHEP area. Gundia is one of the only three important locations in Karnataka where the Travancore Flying Squirrel (Petinomys fuscocapillus) is recorded according to scientific studies by wildlife biologists of Mysore University. It is also an important area for the endangered slender loris (Loris tardigradus) as recorded by the same University.

Hence the EIA should be declared as fraudulent and unacceptable. It is completely irrational to submerge and execute such a project at an enormous loss of wildlife and bio-diversity.
Construction of the GHEP involves many other development works such as roads, new human settlements, increased movement of people and vehicles etc. All these will lead to fragmentation of the forests, disturb the movement of Wildlife and provide easier access to people to carry out illegal activities such as poaching, timber-logging etc. Arboreal animals such as the Lion Tailed Macaque (LTM) that is endemic to this region and which are restricted to tree canopies will get increasingly isolated leading to the fragmentation and will weaken the gene-pool and eventual loss of this species. How does the CM intend to compensate these species for whom these forests are their homes?

The CM needs to realize that a Karnataka can become a model state not by only progressing on the infrastructure front, but by maintaining the proper balance between development and environment. The Pride of Karnataka is not just IT and BT but Tigers, Elephants and other Wildlife species which put Karnataka on the global map. We request the honorable Chief Minister not to go ahead with the project.

Yours sincerely,

Laxmeesha Acharya,
President, Kenneth Anderson Nature Society, Bengaluru

- Principal Secretary, Ecology and Environment, Government of Karnataka,
MS Building, Bengaluru – 560 001

- Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (General)
Aranya Bhavan, 18th Cross, Malleswaram, Bengaluru – 560 003

- Chief Wildlife Warden
Aranya Bhavan, 18th Cross, Malleswaram, Bengaluru – 560 003


Demand for a capable Minister for MoEF

Date: 19.05.2009
Smt.Sonia Gandhi,
President, Indian National Congress,
10, Janpath
New Delhi-110011

The period from 1970-90 was a golden period for Indian forests and wildlife. With the launch of the Project Tiger, our national animal was saved from the brink of extinction through strict legislation and enforcement of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act 1972. The visionary act of the then Honourable Prime Minister of India, Mrs. Indira Gandhi ably guided by people who realized the importance of protecting the forests was instrumental in getting strong foundation for conservation of wildlife in our country. Unfortunately, after the demise of Mrs. Indira Gandhi, Indian wildlife took a downward trend and few of the successive governments were able to continue her legacy.

Today, we are faced with the bleak scenario of dwindling forests and not a day passes without reading in the press of an animal being poached or wildlife habitat being encroached / making way for grand infrastructure projects like highways, dams, mines etc. Sariska lost all its Tigers few years back. Panna has met the same fate today and Kanha is headed the same way. According to official sources, India has lost eight tigers this year due to poaching and unofficial numbers could be three times higher.

A lot of cheer is on in our country today with the prospect of a stable government at the center, which will be able to carry forward economic reforms without any pressure. Unemployment is expected to come down, industrial production is expected to improve and the Sensex has been on the upward trend from yesterday. The cheer is also for the prospect of a young government which will bring freshness and honesty into governance. While this augurs good for the future of our country, it will be very sad if this freshness, honesty and integrity is not infused into the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF).

Scientific studies have valued the annual cost of loss of forests worldwide between $2trillion and $5trillion. India stands to benefit largely by utilizing this resource wisely. The revenue that our forests generate for our country in terms of water sources, air, carbon sequestration, medicines, eco –tourism etc. is far greater that what any economic reform can bring in. However to understand and appreciate these benefits, foresight is needed and going by past experiences this foresight has been lacking by governments of the past decade, at the center as well at the state level. Many of these benefits may not be tangible and hence the inability to appreciate it. Conservation of forests and wildlife are similar to the spending on health, education, security which do not have direct benefits but bring intangible benefits for the society.

To save our country from the loss of such high economic valued resources and to protect the wildlife which, though cannot vote like we humans do, but have an equal right to ‘roti’ and ‘makaan’, a person with foresight, steadfastness and broad outlook is needed. Insulating the forests from development activities like infrastructure projects and mining also requires hard conviction and principles to resist the lobbying powers. The legislations in our country are among the best in the world. The weakness is in the implementation of these laws.

In light of this, a strong, committed and young Member of the Parliament can give visionary direction to this ministry which needs a good understanding of scientific, biological and socio-economic aspects combined with wide travelling to remote regions of the country. Hence we request you to allot the very important portfolio of Ministry of Forest and Environment to someone with such dedication and commitment.


Laxmeesha Acharya
Kenneth Anderson Nature Society


Monday, May 18, 2009

Medical camp at Kodakerai on May 3, 2009

The visit to Gutheri last month lead to a discussion on conducting a medical camp for the village of Kodakerai and the neighbouring hamlets. Dr. Sudhakar, who came up with this idea, worked on getting the doctors and drugs to be distributed to the patients. Parallely, Sanjeev worked on getting the FD permission and for passing the message to the villagers. D-Day was decided for May 3rd 2009 and the team was supposed to jam up at the Aiyur FRH the previous evening.

Since it was a long weekend (due to May 1st - Labour day), some of us decided to head to Aiyur early. Karthik and Anand took off in Anand's trusty Shanthi. Guru, Sunil and I left a little later in our bikes and after breakfast at Attibele, we reached Aiyur FRH at noon. Karthik and Anand, who had gone towards Devarabetta to do some birding, had not yet reached Aiyur. So, the three of us decided to bike over to Kodakerai and find out if the villagers had got news of the medical camp as yet. Got to sight a black eagle and couple of Short toed snake eagles hovering over spider valley.

On reaching Kodakerai, we realised that the villagers had not received news of the camp and so we went about informing everyone we came across about it. Since we had time to kill, we trekked up to Gutheri, did some birding (sighted an Emerald dove for the first time) and returned to Kodakerai by 5 pm. Got news that Shanthi had visted Kodakerai in our absence. Headed back to Aiyur and bumped into the entire gang (Karthik, Anand, Sanjeev, Prasanna, Jayraman, Sudhakar and Balaji) by Sami Eri. as they made plans for the evening's revely, I headed back to Bangalore since there was no one at home and I had to feed my dog, Subbu.

Left early morning and zoomed to Aiyur to find that people were still getting ready. Bumped into Guru and Dr. Jasim at Namileri packing breakfast for the rest. After breakfast, we hauled few chairs on Arvind's Qualis and with Shanthi and Dave's Innvova, we left for Kodakerai.

On reaching there, we got the school opened, arranged the tables and chairs, made a make-shift covered area for the lady patients. The doctors were grouped as follows:
- Dr. Lavangi and Dr. Deepika: Gynecs
- Dr. Jasim: Pediatrics
- Dr. Balaji: General Physician
- Dr. Sudhakar: Overall in-charge of doling out medicines
With everything set, the rest of us set about getting the patients! One man came in hesitatingly, and then a lady with a child and gradually it became a deluge. Guru was handling the patient registations and he was soon surrounded by ladies, babies, old women etc. We had to soon resort to crowd control which Dave, Karthik and others ably handled. Sunil set about taking pics while Jay and Prasanna went about to the other hamlets to spread the news of the camp.

By around 12 pm, we ran out of drugs and then had to just issue prescriptions to the patients. The typical problems that people had were skin infections and respiratory problems (due to poor hygiene). After dealing with approx. 167 patients, we decided to close the camp and after thanking the locals we headed back to Aiyur where Karthik had organised a sumptous lunch.

With that we decided to call it a day and we headed back to our respective houses. The doctors and Sanjeev decided to pay a visit to a hospital at Bettamugilalam which is run by a retired doctor. There we donated the some of the stuff like surgical gloves etc. and they returned to Chennai.

All in all, a very satisfying experience. A big thanks to the doctors for thinking of the idea, organising the medicines and coming all the way from Chennai for this. And a big thanks to Karthik for co-ordinating the whole activity.

Laxmeesha Acharya
Kenneth Anderson Nature Society

- Laxmeesha
- Sanjeev
- Prasanna
- Jayraman
- Karthik
- Anand Menon
- Dave Stocker
- Arvind Adhi
- Ravi
- Guru Timmapur
- Sunil Gaikwad
- Dr. Sudhakar
- Dr. Lavangi
- Dr. Jasim
- Dr. Balaji
- Dr. Deepika