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Yet another attempt to expand mini-hydel project on forest fringes(thehindu)

Visit of Forest Dept. officials to projectsite triggersconcern among conservationists

Conservationists are peeved at the repeated attempts of the State government to revive the expansion plans of a mini-hydel project bisecting the wildlife corridor. The proposed expansion of the project, at Sattegala at the edge of the Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary, has been rejected twice by the State Board for Wildlife.
The visit of senior officials of the Department of Forests to the site near Gaganachukki–Bharachukki waterfalls and forest area close to the wildlife sanctuary in Kollegal has triggered fresh concerns as it is being perceived that the officials are under pressure from the State government to clear the project. This, despite the wildlife board recommending that the existing plant — for which permission was issued in 2011 — be closed once the lease expires.
A senior department official confirmed that senior officials visited the Gaganachukki–Bharachukki area to inspect the site of the mini-hydel plant, on Saturday.
The proposed expansion of Madhyaranga mini-hydel project — that has changed its name several times in the past (including Basaveshwara mini-hydel project and Pioneer power project) — was rejected by the wildlife board based on the report of a committee headed by its then vice-chairman Anil Kumble and included conservation biologist Sanjay Gubbi, and the then Principal Secretary R. Sridharan and others. The report underlined the negative impacts of the project on wildlife, especially on elephants, disturbance to migration, possibility of increase in man-elephant conflict, and so on. In January 2015, yet another committee of the wildlife board — headed by Madan Gopal, the then Additional Chief Secretary (Forests, Ecology and Environment) — visited the site and the project was rejected once again. This was ratified in the meeting of the board on September 11, 2015 headed by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah.
Task force report
Sources told The Hindu that in addition to this, the Elephant Task Force, set up by the High Court in the suo moto case related to elephant deaths in 2008, opined in its report that “the penstocks and impounded water can create a significant obstacle to the movement of wildlife, particularly long distance foraging animals such as the elephants”. “The task force recommendations were accepted by the court in its October 8, 2013 order and it ordered reviewing of clearances granted to all projects that had come up in elephant habitats and violated the law,” sources said.

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