The Karnataka High Court on Wednesday said that the survey work inside the Sharavathi Valley Lion Tailed Macaque (LTM) Sanctuary in Karnataka will not restart until November 4. The survey work was being conducted by the Karnataka Power Corporation Limited (KPCL) for the proposed Sharavathi Project, a 2000-MW hydroelectric project which aims to pump water from downstream reservoirs of the Sharavathi river to generate electricity.
KPCL had earlier told the High Court on October 16 that it will halt the survey work and geotechnical studies, which involves drilling boreholes in the sanctuary, till October 19. The same has now been extended by two weeks, till November 4. The High Court was hearing a petition filed by Edward Santosh Martin who opposed the project stating that it violates multiple environmental laws and poses an imminent threat to the endangered Lion-tailed Macaque found in the sanctuary.
The state government had permitted the drilling of 12 boreholes (2×2 inches diameter) inside the sanctuary for the hydroelectric project. Even though the permission was granted at the end of May, the Chief of Wildlife had stated that drilling work should not be held during the monsoon period which began at the start of June. Subsequently, after a week of drilling work was completed, it was stopped when the monsoon season began. The drilling work was later restarted before it was halted again on October 16, after KPCL gave assurances to the court.
The Sharavathi River, which originates in the central Western Ghats region, flows westward through Shivamogga and Uttara Kannada districts of Karnataka before joining the Arabian Sea. The Sharavathi Project aims to pump water from downstream reservoirs – Talakalale and Gerusoppa – to generate electricity.
Environmentalists have opposed the project since it proposes to build transmission lines, staff quarters and access roads in pristine forest areas. The sanctuary is home to the lion-tailed macaque and the petitioner pointed out that the population of LTM’s in the sanctuary will be under threat due to the project.
In a response to the court, KPCL stated that there are no lion-tailed macaques in the project area and claimed that the survey work was ‘unobtrusive and harmless’.
The forests in the Sharavathi valley are also known for Myristica swamps, an ancient evergreen forest system. Myristica swamps are freshwater swamps which are home to a number of reptiles, birds and amphibians. They are found in only two locations in India – in Uttara Kannada district and in southern Kerala.