On Saturday morning, people came out to protest at the town hall in Bangalore to save the Western Ghats. They were against the expansion of the Kaiga Nuclear Power Plant, power transmission line from Goa to Chhattisgarh and Sharavathi Valley Pump Storage Power Plant which will lead to the cutting of 3.7 lakh mature trees and destroy 376 hectares of forests.
The three government projects will see the destruction of a minimum of 3.7 lakh trees in the western ghats.
The activist, Vallesh Kaushik was wearing a breathing mask attached to the handheld plant pot as he protested against the state and central governments for destroying the core of the fragile ecosystem in the Western Ghats in the name of development.
Vallesh said, “If governments don’t start realizing the importance of conserving the environment, then children in the coming generations will have to walk with mobile oxygen cylinders as there won’t be any fresh air to breathe.”
United conservation movement, a non-governmental organization held the protest, which other environmentalists, wildlife activists, agriculturalists, and other like-minded people. According to the protestors, these policies along with the others have put nearly 50 lakh trees in the state at risk. At this time only 5.6% of states area consists of forest land. These projects will also lead to fragmentation of wildlife corridors such as the ones for tigers and lion-tailed macaques.
The activists said that most of the trees are endemic to the western ghats and would be over 400 years old.
The Western Ghats has lost 20,000 hectares over the last 17 years, due to increasing urbanisation and development of tourist resorts. It is listed as the ‘hottest hotspot’ of biological diversity, its home to 325 endangered flora and fauna species and is the place of origin of the Cauvery river.
A naturalist Ullas Kumar said “They are pushing all this in the name of development but as a result of nuclear plant people are getting cancer in their early teens. While the government is not conducting any studies on their own, they are not acknowledging the studies done by NGOs. While there might be a power for some, the people there will suffer indefinitely.”
“The authorities concerned must explain the dire need for these projects, and establish whether their overall benefits outweigh the total cost to society,” said Joseph Hoover, convenor, UCM.
Following the demonstrations, the activists under the banner of the United Conservation Movement, are set to meet Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa on Monday and submit a memorandum.