Karntaka dams may cause quake : Cong

| 06 February 2001 23:20 IST

Opposition to big dams seems to be the natural fallout of the disastrous earthquake in Gujarat. Interestingly, the outcry has come not from environmental groups but the Congress leaders.

Goa PCC president Nirmala Sawant, who is also heading the Mhadei Bachao Andolan, has strongly protested against the proposed seven dams in Karnataka, which would be constructed by diverting water of river Mhadei, which is also known as Mandovi in Goa.

Though Sawant's local opposition party is ruling in the southern neighbouring state, she has written to Karnataka chief minister S M Krishna that the proposed dams could be harmful to both the states as the whole belt is earthquake-prone zone.

Quoting observations of some seismologists that clusters of hydroelectric projects over the dams could cause serious harm within the radius of 50 kms, she has pointed out that Kadasali dam and Supa dam in Karnataka and Tillari dam on Goa-Maharashtra border already fall within this radius.

All these proposed seven dams would be the additional risk, fears Sawant, as the whole area in the Karnataka forest also falls within 50 kms of radius, covering half of the tourist state. Goa's forest along the Sahyadri ghat is hardly 40 to 50 kms away from the coastal belt.

By diverting 255 million cubic metres of water from Mhadei to Malprabha basin for irrigation in Belgaum as well as parts of Bijapur and Dharwar districts, Karnataka is also planning to generate around 457 MW of hydroelectric power with three power houses.

On the other hand, the seismologists have recently demarcated the quake-prone zones afresh, categorising most of the Konkan belt along with Goa as the moderate risk zone number three, in which also fall areas like quake-affected Latur.

Though Goa is receives shocks of any tremors with its epicentre either near Koyna dam or Latur in Maharashtra and the recent quake at Bhuj in Gujarat, the international tourist destination has suddenly become alert after Bangalore - a no-risk zone - also witnessed tremors.

The Mhadei river, which merges into the Arabian sea as river Mandovi in Panaji, traverses a distance of 28.8 kms in Karnataka and 81.2 kms in Goa. People in Goa have already registered its protest against the proposed diversion as Mhadei is considered the lifeline of the tourist state, especially the northern belt.

"How can we take such a risk when we already surrounded by three to four dams", asks Sawant, stating that she would take initiative in mobilising public opinion even across the border, while also crossing barriers of political parties.

She has also similar letters to the central ministers, concerned ministers in Karnataka as well as Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar and irrigation minister Ramakant Khalap. The state government is however yet to react to it.

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