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Wind turbine project proposal in elephant habitat rejected

In a major boost to conservation, Karnataka State Wildlife Board has rejected a proposal to establish a wind power generation station at Bellathur Gudda and surrounding villages in Kollegal which is an elephant home range.

The decision to reject the project, mooted by a private player, was taken at the board’s meeting in Bengaluru on Friday where the members opposed the power station on the grounds that the site was located between two important protected areas besides being an important corridor.

The attention of the members was drawn to a report submitted by the Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (APCCF), Mysuru, pointing out that the site of the proposed project was located between BRT Tiger Reserve and M.M. Hills Wildlife Sanctuary, both of which are habitats of the Asiatic elephants and other wild animals.

Elephant herds were also known to frequently move between the two forests as also to the nearby Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary. Besides, studies had indicated that elephants use the non-forest land of Bellathur Gudda – which was the proposed site for erection of the wind power generating station – as a transit point while moving between the two protected areas.

Consequent to the APCCF report, the Conservator of Forests, BRT Tiger Reserve, submitted a technical report on the negative impact of the proposed wind turbine project on the elephant habitat and migration pattern of the animals, and concluded that it would be harmful for elephants.

The proposed site is close to Edayarahalli (M.M. Hills), and Doddasampige (BRT Tiger Reserve) corridor and Beallathur Gudda provided for free movement of elephant herds.

Fears of fragmentation

There were fears that the project, if approved, would result in fragmentation of the elephant habitat with a negative impact on the long-term conservation efforts. Besides erecting the turbines, the construction process entailed clearing vegetation, creating access roads, installing turbines and connecting them to the power lines, all of which would add to habitat degradation, and hence the project was rejected.