The state-level green panel has given nod for diversion of 13.93 hectares of forest land in Hassan district, Karnataka, for implementation of Yettinahole Integrated Drinking Water Project, one of the flagship projects of Krishna Neeravari Nigam Ltd (KNNL).
The panel also imposed a penalty on KNNL for commencing the project without prior approval. At present, all works connected to this project have been stopped consequent on the undertaking submitted before the National Green Tribunal.
The project aims to cater to the requirements of over 7.55 million people in drought-prone Kolar, Chickballapur, Ramanagaram, Tumakuru, Bengaluru Rural and Hassan districts.
The Regional Empowered Committee (REC) under the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest has given approval to the proposal with certain conditions.
“Considering all the facts, especially the purpose of the project of providing drinking water, which is a basic need of any society, REC decided to approve the proposal, subject to usual conditions, additional conditions and mitigative measures,” REC said in the minutes of the meeting held recently.
It further said the project authorities are also required to obtain all necessary approvals required under the law governing the project before it is implemented. “Accordingly, the Regional office, Bangalore, will issue in-principle (stage -I) approval for the proposal,” it said.
The REC examined the proposal, including the objections raised against the project and the site inspection report.
“REC has been informed that Gundia project may have to be dropped consequent on implementation of this drinking water project. Also, there is no proposal on Gundia project before the Environment Ministry and Forest for diversion of forest land. As such, the committee cannot take into account any of the objections on account of this,” it said.
As against the total land requirement of 276.08 hectares for the drinking water project, the forest land required is the barest minimum.
“Total notified forest area involved in this project is only 8.1 hectares. The balance 5.83 hectares involved in this clearance is deemed forest under the ownership of the Revenue Department,” it added.
Taking note of commencement of the project without prior approval, REC said, “There is a violation of condition of para 4.4 of the guidelines issued under the Forest Conservation Act which prescribes obtaining prior approval under the law before commencement of the project even on land outside the forest area.”
It added: “It, therefore, calls for imposition of penalty and accordingly, it was decided to get 40 hectares of land earmarked for dumping all along the rising main, planted with native species, at the cost the company by the Forest Department.”