Panel report on Western Ghats revives hopes for power projects

A new governmental panel on Western Ghats has rekindled hopes for two proposed controversial hydro-projects in the ecologically sensitive region by seeking to bury the recommendations of an expert group which has suggested scrapping the projects.The Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP), headed by eminent environmentalist Madhav Gadgil, had recommended scrapping of Karnataka’s Gundia and Kerala’s Athirapally hydro-projects.But the 10-member panel headed by Planning Commission member K Kasturirangan said in its report that based on the revaluation and collection of data on ecological flow, the Kerala government could take forward the Athirappally proposal, “if it so desires, with the Ministry of Environment and Forests”.On Gundya Hudropower Project, the panel said it has not proposed a complete ban on the construction of hydropower in the ecologically-sensitive area but “it has recommended conditions that balance the needs of energy with environment”.The Kasturirangan-committee recommended Karnataka government should reassess the ecological flow in downstream areas, based on a thorough evaluation of hydrological regimes in the area.

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