The Supreme Court’s Green Bench of Justices Madan B.Lokur and Deepak Gupta, today directed the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change and the State of Karnataka to file affidavits, within one week, as to whether the State has filed an application for forest and environment clearance in relation to the Kalsa-Bhandura project in Western Ghats, and if so, the stage of consideration of its application.
“If no application has been received, it should be specifically stated on affidavit”, the bench held.
The bench noted that the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) has, in its report, found that about 258 hectares of forest land is to be diverted for the project. Therefore, the matter requires some serious consideration, the bench observed.
On August 2, the Goa Chief Minister, Manohar Parrikar has called the Khalsa-Bhandura river diversion project of the Karnataka Government an ecological bomb. Parikkar has reportedly said: “About 47 per cent of the Mhadei basin is in Goa. A diversion of water by Karnataka will have negative impact on Goa’s ecology and, wild life and the Western Ghats will be affected”.
The Supreme Court’s intervention assumes significance, in view of Parrikar’s statement.The project was undertaken by Karnataka to provide drinking water supply to the districts of Belagavi, Dharwad and Gadag. It involves building across Kalasa and Banduri, two tributaries of the Mahadayi river to divert 7.56 TMC of water to the Malaprabha river, which supplies the drinking water needs of the three districts.
The Centre cleared the project in 2002, but due to Goa’s opposition to the project because of environment concerns, the approval and funding of the project have been put on hold. The Goa Government has secured a stay on the construction work, and the dispute is before the Mhadei Water Disputes Tribunal.
The Supreme Court’s intervention is not over this dispute, but on the forest-environment clearance to the project.