Let the Western Ghats be 'damned': A presentation on how dam building affects the ecology and social structure of these biodiversity spots

The western ghats are being relentlessly and systematically dammed. Officials create confusing jargon, find legal loopholes and the environmental procedure is waved off.

These global biodiversity hotspots in the country, extraordinarily rich in plant and animal species, are being submerged in the name of development and growth. An overview of the dams built and proposed in this area.

A presentation on the dams of the western ghats and their effect on the ecology and biodiversity , SANDRP

Maharashtra with a total of over 1845 dams, contributes to 35% of large dams found in the country. Unfortunately dams for drinking water and industrial water supply are excluded from any Environmental Clearance processes. So these ’benign’ dams have the full authority to mushroom as deemed fit without any study of the species diversity, impact assessment study for the displaced populace or a detailed eco system survey.

Sadly, in certain dams like Kalu, Balganga and Kondhane, work has already started even before a formal Forest Clearance is in place. People’s voices are being completely ignored by officials.

In Karnataka, certain existing dams were found to be disastrous on the ecosystem and Bedthi Dam was cancelled through strong local opposition. Rivers like Aganashisni, Bedthi and parts of Kali are protected as ‘Community Reserves’ through a novel system of conservation.

An upcoming 200 MW Gundia project on Kumaradhara river in Dakshin Kannada needs to be studied in detail before commencement. A number of groups have sent submission, staged protests against this short sighted project that will submerge 700 hectares land including forest land.

The mini hydel projects are small dams having huge impacts and surprisingly do not need an environment impact assessment study, an environmental clearance and definitely not a public hearing as they are assumed harmless. In reality, their impact on communities and ecosystems are huge!

Kerala that supports some of the most luxuriant ecosystems and diverse communities in Western Ghats, already has 52 dams and plans for still more.

The way out of this deepening mess is to apply the Water Sector Recommendations as given by the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel ( WGEEP) report and a coming together of the people’s movements to save the western ghats environmental sensitivity and ecological significance.

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