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  • ESG India
    Environment Support Group ® *105, **East End B Main Road**, Jayanagar 9^th Block East, **Bangalore** 560069.INDIA* *Tel: 91-80-22441977/26531339 Voice/Fax:
    Message 1 of 3 , Apr 4, 2008
      Environment Support Group ®

      105, East End B Main Road, Jayanagar 9th Block East, Bangalore 560069.INDIA

      Tel: 91-80-22441977/26531339  Voice/Fax: 91-80-26534364

      Email: esg@... or esgindia@... Web: www.esgindia.org

      PRESS RELEASE: Bangalore : 04 April 2008




      Continuing with its unique and unprecedented initiative, the Karnataka Electricity Regulatory Commission (KERC) held the second Public Hearing on the desirability of establishing 1000 MW coal based power projects at different locations in Karnataka, including one at Chamalapura, Mysore District.  In the Hearing held on 03 April 2008 at the KERC Hq. in Bangalore, Environment Support Group (ESG) deposed before the Commission and made a detailed written submission arguing that Chamalapura is not an appropriate site for the location of a coal fired thermal power plant.


      This Public Hearing is a part of the broader process initiated by the KERC based on the petition filed by Mysore Grahakara Parishat (Mysore Consumers Union) questioning the rationale behind siting coal fired power plants at Chamalapura and three other locations in Karnataka. KERC relies on its power u/s Section 86(2) of the Indian Electricity Act, 2003 to advise Government agencies in such matters. 


      The first Hearing as part of this process was held on March 06, 2008.  This was followed by a visit to Chamalapura by the members of the KERC on March 20, 2008.  As with the March Hearing, the 03 April hearing was also very well attended by farmers from Chamalapura & other affected villages, ecologists and energy experts, and social, consumer and environmental action groups. 


      In the Hearing Leo Saldanha, Coordinator of ESG, strongly contested and questioned the Karnataka Government’s rationale for granting in-principle clearance to the allocation of 3.9 TMC (Thousand Million Cubic Feet) of water for use by three power plants from the Cauvery River Basin. Relying on data accessed from the Karnataka Water Resources Department and the Cauvery Neeravari Nigama Ltd. for the decade of 1997-2008, he demonstrated that the Kabini River (which is in the Cauvery Basin) simply does not have 1.56 TMC of water for the 1,000 MW Chamalapura power plant and its ancillary facilities.  The situation would get worse if the project expanded its installed capacity in future.


      Saldanha argued that this data was always available to the Government, and if only any of its agencies and its officers had cared to review such information, the proposal could never have been advanced.  The fact that the proposal has moved through various stages including a Global Invitation for Expression of Interest and subsequently Request for Proposal stages, is indicative of the cavalier approach that has been adopted in deciding critical issues of concern on the development of the energy sector in Karnataka.


      Presenting the inflow, outflow and utilization of water from the Kabini Reservoir, it was pointed out that over the past decade there has been a gradual decrease in the level of inflows into the Kabini reservoir.  In addition there has been decreasing availability of water for irrigation of summer crops, including nil releases into the canal for irrigation during the months of January to May in the years 2003 and 2004.


      Water releases to power projects ought to be made from surplus available and that too only after meeting drinking water and agricultural needs.  This natural justice principle would be fundamentally violated if the power project was advanced relying on waters from Kabini.  That Kabini has failed to meet even agricultural needs consistently over the past decade should have been a sufficient warning for concerned agencies to desist from advancing this proposal, Saldanha argued.  The Karnataka Government’s commitment of Kabini waters to the power plant would further aggravate the water stressed situation in the region. 


      Saldanha pointed out that any allocation to industry or infrastructure development from the Kabini would have disastrous consequences to wildlife populations, particularly in the Nagarahole National Park.  Further, it would accentuate the distress amongst farmers downstream and also pollute and limit drinking water for Nanjangud, Mysore and Bangalore and other urban centres.  This would result in the needless development of conflict between the project developer and downstream farming and urban communities.


      Saldanha also raised critical concerns over the allocation of water for power plants from the Cauvery River basin in the context of highly contested claims to the rivers’ waters from the riparian states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Pondicherry.   The serious social tensions developing in Karnataka against downstream Tamil Nadu’s proposals to build dams for providing drinking water at Hogenekkal, simply demanded more prudence in the use of the Cauvery Basin’s water.  In such a scenario making an allocation for diverting water for thermal power projects, that too without assessing the actual availability or consulting other riparian states, was a wholly inappropriate step on the part of the Karnataka Government, he submitted.


      Given that the Government has committed to 85% Plant Load Factor for the power project, the serious impediments of not having water during the summer months would greatly increase the risk of the Government abrogating its commitments.  This could have serious economic and business repercussions, as the investor is more than likely to drag the government into an international arbitration (as in the case of the Dabhol Power Plant by the erstwhile Enron Corporation), in addition to suing the State in India.  To have not address such concerns before initiating a massive advertisement campaign seeking investors for the project, is an approach that betrays a lack of forethought on the part of the Government, Saldanha asserted. 


      Considering the widespread implications of this decision, Leo Saldanha argued that the Government should have been more transparent in its approach before taking a decision to call for international bids.  Shockingly, he argued, the only piece of information that the Karnataka Government and its agencies had shared with the public, especially affected communities, was the one page advertisement calling for EOI and RFQ.  Clearly, this form of secrecy is not healthy in any act of governance, especially energy development given its long term socio-economic and environmental implications, Saldanha submitted.


      On this note, he urged the Hon’ble Commission to strongly advise the Government from moving ahead with plans for the Chamalapura power project.  He also sought the indulgence of the Commission to initiate suo moto proceedings against the relevant agencies of the State for irresponsibly advancing a massive power project without in any reasonable manner surveying the required factors or assessing the impacts.


      A copy of the detailed submission made to the Karnataka Electricity Regulatory Commission, along with annexures is available online at: www.esgindia.org.

      Bhargavi S. Rao                                                                  Nandini Chami

      Environment Support Group

    • Ananya Guha
      It is indeed true that empathy for the poor is missing among our elites-why elites, it is not present among the lower middle class as well.There is a frenetic
      Message 2 of 3 , Apr 4, 2008

        It is indeed true that empathy for the poor is missing among our elites-why elites, it is not present among the lower middle class as well.There is a frenetic search to climb the social ladder, and the attributes of an elite will be:the cell phone, television and computer. In fact the situation today is redolent of Victorian England.Empathy and compassion are almost a nihilist factor in today's emerging crises, in a country like India.There is lot of banal talk about ICT alleviating the distressed.But the 70% that live on a bare income of Rs 20 per day, do they know what it is let alone having chimerical dreams about air travel?


        Let us understand grassroot realities and raw nerves.Why are farmers committing suicide with regularity? Why did Nandigram and Singur explode into rebellion? Why do the tribals of Meghalaya feel threatened by Uranium mining? And finally why did we need a Mother Teresa to feel for our destitutes? What were our  countrymen doing? Mouthing platitudes?



        --- On Fri, 4/4/08, Sukla Sen <suklasenp@...> wrote:

        From: Sukla Sen <suklasenp@...>
        Subject: [arkitectindia] Defining Indian Elite
        To: ihro@yahoogroups.com, issuesonline_worldwide@yahoogroups.com, arkitectindia@yahoogroups.com, seztrack@...
        Date: Friday, 4 April, 2008, 12:51 PM

        Identifying The Indian Elite

        Arun Kumar

        Based on the article published in The Tribune, April
        1, 2008.

        Mrs. Sonia Gandhi, inaugurating the new airport
        in Hyderabad is reported to have said, “… air travel
        was not elitist anymore”. With airports jammed and
        congestion in the air leading to delays in take off
        and landing, many would come to that conclusion.
        However, saying that more people are traveling by air
        now compared to 5 years back is not the same thing as
        saying that it is not elitist anymore. Who do we
        consider to be elite in India?

        The statement reflects the view of our top
        leadership about society. It is particularly important
        since it is Mrs. Gandhi who moved the Congress to its
        evocative slogan, `hamara hath aam admi ke sath’ and
        it helped the party regain power in 2004. Further, it
        is she who forced the powerful trio of PM, FM and Dy.
        Chairperson of the Planning Commission who believe in
        the pro corporate and pro rich policies based on the
        neo-liberal philosophy, to accept the NREGS and now
        the farm loan waiver scheme. Thus, she has been the
        ally of the poor in the Congress party. Yet, her
        statement reflects where her empathy is.

        The Unorganized Sector Report based on the NSS
        61st round (2004-05) shows that 77% of the population
        lives at less than Rs. 20/- per person per day. So,
        most people would hardly even use trains much less
        flights. Those who do use the railways mostly travel
        by the ordinary unreserved compartments in our trains.
        The overcrowding of these compartments suggests that a
        vast majority does not even have the money for
        reservation, much less AC or air travel.

        The statement is similar to the argument that
        India is prosperous since a large number of people use
        cell phones. In the metropolitan centers one can even
        spot a rickshaw puller or a gardener flaunting a cell
        phone. However, this does not signify that these users
        are able to afford these gadgets or are better off
        than earlier. They maybe cutting other expenditures,
        perhaps on essentials for the family, like, on food or
        education of the child. High pressured advertising and
        peer group pressure is known to force people into
        irrational choices where they sacrifice their
        essential expenditures for the sake of prestige, etc.

        Can one say that those who consume alcohol
        should be spending enough on food for the family? It
        is well known that many of those who drink heavily
        leave their families destitute. Women’s movement
        against drinking in Andhra Pradesh in the mid Nineties
        focused on this. The plight of many such families
        moved Gandhiji to demand prohibition. An irrational
        choice maybe made by an individual belonging to a poor
        family and this cannot be the basis for concluding
        that if someone in the family drinks, the family must
        be eating well.

        Malnourishment amongst children and women is
        higher in India than in sub Saharan Africa. Food
        consumption per capita has declined in the country
        after 1991 and this has affected the nutritional
        status of the poor, children and women. To argue that
        those who do not have adequate calories are eating
        more of high value food does not stand scrutiny.
        Production of one unit of meat takes 6 units of
        foodgrain and of one unit of chicken takes 2 units of
        foodgrain. So, as the well off sections consume more
        of these items, their per capita consumption of
        foodgrain rises even though their direct consumption
        may fall. That is why in the rich countries, foodgrain
        consumption rises. Since, in India, the overall
        consumption per capita is falling, the brunt of this
        decline in the average is falling on the poor who are
        in no position to go for higher value food items.

        The confusion regarding who are the elite is
        similar to that of who are the middle class in India?
        By definition, those who are the middle of any
        ordering of the population can be called the middle
        class. In India, if we classify the population by
        their incomes, then 500 millions would be in the
        middle. But these are not the middle class as
        understood in the international context of the
        `consuming classes’.

        According to the survey, in 2004-05, only 4% of
        the population (numbering 44 million), at the top of
        the income ladder and categorized as the high income
        spent more than the princely sum of Rs. 48/- per
        person per day. This category spent an average of Rs.
        93 per day. Thus, in reality, even these people can
        hardly afford air travel in spite of the drop in air
        fares. It is quite likely that given these figures,
        less than 1% of the population or about 11 million
        people would be middle class and would be able to use
        air travel. This is certainly also the elite unless
        for any arbitrary reason one wishes to call the top
        0.1% as the elite.

        There is a catch, namely, these figures are
        based on the reported data. The economy has a roaring
        black economy which now adds up to about 50% of GDP.
        Much consumption is based on these incomes but the
        surveys do not capture it. Just as the black income
        earners do not reveal their black incomes they also do
        not reveal their consumption out of the black incomes.
        So, consumption in the economy ought to be higher than
        what is revealed.

        But black incomes are concentrated in the hands
        of at most the top 3% of the population so it is they
        who have the extra consumption and not the poor.
        Actually, the rest suffer since they have to pay
        bribes, etc., to line the pockets of the top 3% and
        they have to curtail their consumption. In brief, at
        most 3% of the population would be able to afford air
        travel but would these people not be called the elite?

        Mrs. Gandhi could have said that the elite need
        air travel because they travel frequently. What Mrs.
        Gandhi’s statement indicates is the distance between
        our leaders and the common man who lives at less than
        Rs. 20/- per person per day. Even Big B is reported to
        have said that now poverty is a thing of the past. How
        insulated the top is from the reality – perhaps
        blinded by its own hype of `India shining’?

        All this is not surprising given that our
        leadership rubs shoulders with the rich in India and
        abroad. Even the party of the Dalits demands from
        aspirants for its election tickets a donation of a few
        lakhs if not more. Lakhs are spent on birthday bashes
        and big diamonds sported. In the Parliament, designer
        clothes are flaunted which perhaps cost as much as the
        yearly expenditure of the common person’s family. To
        attend Parliament, MPs are known to fly in daily in
        their private planes. The top functionaries of the
        state live like the new maharajas of the old.

        The top leadership socializes with the rich on a
        daily basis and internalizes their concerns to the
        exclusion of the needs of the poor who they see only
        at a distance. Recently, for the wedding of his son,
        one CM gave an invitation card package estimated to
        cost Rs 15,000/- per invitee. The top leadership is
        imitating the businessmen in their lavish lifestyle
        and aspiring to get their. As they say, a person is
        known by the company they keep. They do not any more
        identify with the destitution of the common man.

        On days when the leaders make a political show
        of their concern for the poor, they make speeches to
        them or to hired crowds looking like the poor. Or,
        they pay a flying visit to the villages and slums and
        wave at the common people since they are cut off from
        the masses by the security bandobast. Unlike,
        Gandhiji, they do not go and live in their midst.
        There are no PMs or CMs or ministers who become a `Ek
        din ka’ slum dweller or villager.

        Empathy with the poor is missing amongst the
        ruling elite. The leadership does not even feel the
        need for it because their entire class does the same
        and there is no competition. The poor in the country
        have no choice and select one or the other of them.
        The statement that air travel is “not elitist anymore”
        when hardly 1% (or at most 3% is able to afford it) of
        India uses this mode of transport is bereft of an
        understanding of the country; a bit like the Queen
        supposedly saying that if they do not have bread let
        them eat cake.

        arunkumar1000@ hotmail.com

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