Lease of two mini hydel projects cancelled in Karnataka
Lease of two mini hydel projects in the Western Ghats in Karnataka has been cancelled by the State government for violating environmental laws. The projects were actually one big project which is under construction; the developer had shown it as two mini hydel projects on paper to circumvent the requirement of environment clearance and forest clearance from the Centre.
Maruthi Power Gen, a Bengaluru-based power company, had applied for forest clearance in 2008 for its two mini hydel projects of 18.9 mw and 19 mw in Kagneri and Kanchanakumari reserved forests in Hassan district. The projects required diversion of 4.18 ha and 4.2 ha forestland respectively.
The Union Environment Ministry's regional office had given the final approval for the diversion of forestland in 2009. It was later found that the two projects were actually one and the company fudged information to bypass environment clearance and Centre's scrutiny for forest clearance.
Hydel projects of below 25 mw and those which do not require more than 5 ha forestland, do not need to apply for environmental clearance and can obtain forest clearance from the regional office of the Union Environment ministry.
Besides, mini hydel projects are highly lucrative as they get subsidies from state and Central governments under renewable energy development schemes and can also avail benefits under the clean development mechanism of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.