Shankar Sharma’s Blog: Serious implications of the proposal to supply water from Linganamakki to Bengaluru, and other ghastly projects (resulting in cutting of 12.75 lakh trees)


(1) The Principal Secretary, Energy Department,  Govt. of Karnataka, Bengaluru

(2) The  Principal Secretary, Department of Forests, Ecology & Environment, Bengaluru

(3) ACS & Development Commissioner,  Govt. of Karnataka, Bengaluru

(4)The Cabinet Secretary, Govt. of Karnataka, Bengaluru



(5) The Deputy Chief Minister,  Govt. of Karnataka, Bengaluru

(6) The Chief Minister,  Govt. of Karnataka, Bengaluru


Dear Sirs/Madams,


Subject: Serious implications of the proposal to supply water from Linganamakki to Bengaluru, and other ghastly projects

Greetings from Mysore.

This has reference to the media report that the Deputy Chief Minister has asked the officials to prepare a project report on supplying about 34 TMC of water from the Linganamakki reservoir to Bengaluru in the first stage, and later increasing it to 60 TMC.

Whereas, the very idea of taking huge quantity of water over a distance of about 400 kM of undulating terrain against an effective elevation of about 640 meters appears to be very seriously flawed, a diligent considerations of all the direct and indirect costs to the society of such a grandiose proposal has become essential. In the following lines, I try to analyse the electric power implications to the state of such a proposal.

Thanks to the high level technical calculations support provided by the civil engineering department of an Engineering college, the following high level power requirements for this proposal were identified. Four different combinations of water supply pipe size were considered for this purpose.  In view of the lack of access to specific and reliable data the following assumptions are made in these calculations, and hence no claims are made as to the high degree of accuracy. These calculations are meant only to indicate the enormity of the issues of the proposal.

  1. Annual water supply: 34 TMC
  2. Length of pipeline from Linganamakki to Bengaluru: 400 kM
  3. Altitude difference: 640 meters
  4. Water supplied during 4 months of rainy season during nights (10 hrs per day for 4 months)


The estimation of electric power requirement for these scenarios are as follows:


1. Scenario 1: For 4 pipes of 3 meter diameter the power requirement  1,600MW
2. Scenario 2: For 2 pipes of 3 meter diameter the power requirement  2,100 MW
3. Scenario 3: For 4 pipes of 2 meter diameter the power requirement  2,800 MW
4. Scenario 4: For 2 pipes of 2 meter diameter the power requirement  7,000 MW

These high level calculations indicate that there can be additional power burden on the state’s grid ranging between 1,600 MW to 7,000 MW (depending on the size & number of the water pipelines used).  Assuming that about 2,800 MW of power will be required additionally, the implications for the power sector in the state has to be considered cautiously. If we also consider the T&D losses associated with this 2,800 MW of additional net electricity demand, the total additional load on the state’s grid because of this proposal may not be less than 3,000 MW.

In a state which has been reeling under shortage (both peak hour and annual energy) for decades, should such an additional burden (of about 3,000 MW of power continuously for about 10 hours every night for four months, and about 30 million Units (MU) of energy per day (about 3,600 MU per year) inevitable for a purpose, which has no statewide application/appeal?  Shall we not consider much better and much simpler alternatives?

The Linganamakki reservoir, which has a storage capacity of about 151 TMC, was built only for the purpose of hydro electricity generation.  Drawing 34 TMC of water from this reservoir will mean a loss of about 23% of the stored water capacity, which will also mean a loss of more than 3,600 MU of annual electricity to the grid, which would be available otherwise for generation from this power project.  In effect this project proposal will mean a net additional demand of more than 7,200 MU per year for the state’s grid.

The massive damage to the local environment (the rich biodiversity of Sharavathy valley and adjacent areas) from this proposal can be judged by the fact that about 80 to 100 Feet of land for about 100 kM in the forested area will have to be dug to lay 2 or more sets of pipelines.

If we go along with the feeble argument that the loss of more than 7,200 MU per year from hydel power can be made up through other power projects (only to meet the ever growing but grossly inefficient water needs of Bengaluru), the very need for additional hydel power project proposals in the state should be questioned, because the Sharavathy Valley Hydel power project is considered to be one of the most efficient among the country’s hydel power projects. Extending such feeble argument further, it can be also be argued that all other hydro power projects in the state can be delinked from power generation purpose and used for water supply to distant places like Bengaluru, Mysore, Mangalore, Hubli, Gulberga, Bidar etc.

For the year 2017-18, Karnataka experienced annual electrical energy shortage of 168 MU and the peak power shortage of 22 MW, which indicates that the state continues to have power deficit (ref: CEA’s executive summary report for March 2018). In such a scenario, how practical is it to seek addition of more than 3,000 MW of power demand and 3,600 MU (7,200 MU net burden on the grid) of annual energy demand because of an avoidable project, since there are many benign alternatives?

In this context, if we also take into account the proposal to build a 2,000 MW pumped storage hydel plant in the Sharavathy river valley,  about 2,500 MW of power may be required to pump the associated amount of water from the lower reservoir to the Linganamakki reservoir (as per the general rules of a pumped storage hydel plant engineering about 2,500 MW of power may be required to pump water to the higher level reservoir to be able to generate 2,000 MW of power from the same quantity of water).

Assuming that pumping of water for these two proposals may have to occur during the night time, there may be additional load of 5,500 MW (3,000 MW for the first scheme PLUS 2,500 MW for the second scheme) on the state’s grid.  Will this scenario be acceptable and in the true interest of the state?

When we also consider many other existing proposals for linear projects such as the transmission lines required for the capacity expansion at Kaiga nuclear power project and the Udupi thermal power project; Gundia hydel power project; the Hubli- Ankola railway line and Talaguppa – Honnavara railway line; many road expansion/build project in the Western Ghats, the total annihilation awaiting one of the eight hottest of biodiversity hotspots in the whole world (i.e WGs of Karnataka alone) should become evidently clear for all those who are concerned about the upkeep of our environment.

It is hard to imagine as to why our officials seem to be always interested in such ghastly schemes without considering the overall implications on the ecology of the state?  Between these project proposals, the total number of mature trees (in the ecologically sensitive Western Ghats (WGs)) may be hundreds of thousands, and the total land area likely to be required for the project works may exceed few hundred hectares.

In order to put these issues in proper perspective, I would like to list some of the project proposals which have already resulted and / or will lead to the cutting of a large number of trees in the Western Ghats (WGs):


1)      400 KV High Tension Power Line from Mysore to Kozhikode: estimated to have resulted in chopping 54,000 trees in Kodagu, Cauvery Catchment area in 2015. 54000
2)      Bengaluru to Mangalore Industrial corridor NH75 widening in Hassan and Dakishina Kannada Districts: 3,500 trees 3500
3)      Netravathi River diversion project in Sakleshpur Taluk , Hassan District : 20,000 trees. 20000
4)      NH13 road widening from Shimoga to Mangaluru: More than 500 trees   500
5)      Tunga Lift irrigation Project (Chickamagaluru district): about 24,000 trees 24000
6)      National Highway 4A widening ( Belgaum to Panjim): 38,000 trees and 210 acres of forest land

7)      Transmission lines for Kaiga nuclear power plant expansion: about 1 lakh trees  100000
8)      Hubli- Ankola railway line in Uttara Kannada district: about 2 lakh trees 200000
9)      Sagar – Kollur NH road  through Sharavathi and Kollur Wildlife santuary: about 1 lakh trees 100000
10) Shimaoga – Honnavar Road to be developed to a 4 lane road: 1 lakh trees. 100000
11) Shikaripua – Byndoor  NH 766 C 2/4 Lane project (Sharavathi Wildlife and Mookambika Wildlife Sanctuary):2 lakh trees.  200000
12) Thirthalli- Malpe 4 lane National Highway through Augumbe  and Someshwara Wildlife santuary: 1 lakh trees  100000
13) Shishila  – Byrapura new 4 lane project in Chickamagalur district: 35,000 trees. 35000
14) 2,000 MW pumped storage hydro power plant in Sharavathi valley Wildlife Sanctuary: 150 hectares of dense forest lands.   NA
15) National Highway from Somavarpet to Manantwadi in Kerala AND Mysore to Thalassery in Kerala Railway line: 3 lakh trees 300000

=12.75 lakh trees

The total number of mature trees (which are of very high ecological value, being in Western  Ghats), which have to be cut from these projects may exceed few lakhs. From the perspective of water security of the state and from the perspective of Climate Change, will such an annihilation of forest wealth acceptable to the state’s forest department?

In this context, the very commitment of our officials towards containing the impacts of Climate Change, and generally in preserving the fast disappearing flora and fauna in our state can be seriously questioned.  Many in our state/nation, like me, are also concerned whether our officials have any inkling of the ecological disasters waiting to happen because of their utter disregard for the critical elements of the nature while formulating the ghastly projects as mentioned above, year after year, despite very many credible reports such as the one from IPCC on the grave risks of destroying our forests, rivers and other fresh water bodies.

It is a troubling question as to whether such large scale devastation of our natural wealth is acceptable to the state’s forest department, and to EMPRI?  For a drought prone state like Karnataka, which is so much dependent on the forests of WGs for its fresh water resources, will such wanton destruction of our forests acceptable?

Are there no credible alternatives for the above mentioned project proposals?  Are all these proposals critical for the overall welfare of the state?  Have the economic decision making tools such as ” Options Analysis” and ” Costs & Benefits Analysis” been diligently used while making such proposals?

The grave threats confronting the WGs in our state can be gauged by a recent report by  IUCN. After assessing the status of 241 natural world heritage sites, the recently published IUCN World Heritage Outlook 2 report puts Western Ghats in the second highest risk category. The report noted that millions of people living in this region cause greater pressures than any other protected areas around the world.  Hence the large number of projects proposed in the WGs of Karnataka, can only worsen the situation, thereby threatening the very social and economic viability of the state to continue to as a human habitat.

(Referenec: Western Ghats: call for better attention:

I hope you will be able to persuade all the concerned departments in the state to diligently consider such critical issues associated with the very existence of life in the long term, and advise the state’s cabinet not to consider such projects which will have multiple impacts on the state’s public in order to achieve just few narrow objectives.

I would like to specifically mention few of the much benign options in case of the three main projects above which will lead to additional power burden for the state:

(A) Linganamakki to Bengaluru water supply proposal: Diligently consider how the estimated 40-45% loss of water in the reticulation system of Bengaluru, which is existing, can be made use of to substitute the 34 TMC of water from Linganamakki at a vastly reduced overall cost to the state; (ii) consider the efficiency improvement measures such as widespread deployment of rain water harvesting, ground water recharging and recycling of waste water within the Bengaluru city. On an average, greater Bengaluru area gets some of the highest rainfalls outside the mountains/WGs/coasts in the country, and hence efficient usage of the same may be enough even to discontinue some of the existing stages of Kavery water supply schemes; (iii) as a bold and rational step, diligently consider stopping the further growth in demand for land, water and energy for the  greater Bengaluru area through rationalisation of the economic activities in that region, and even considering shifting of some of the water/energy intensive industries /activities to other districts in the state.

(B) 2,000 MW pumped storage hydel plant: Since such a pumped storage hydel power plant is associated with the consumption of more than 25% of the electrical energy it can generate, very many benign alternatives such as achieving the highest possible efficiency in electricity transmission, distribution and utilisation during the peak hours of the day should be considered diligently, which can come at approximately at 25% of the financial cost of a new project. Reducing the T&D losses; usage of LED lighting systems all over the state; optimising the illumination levels of the streets, public buildings and public places; deploying off grid solar lighting systems wherever feasible etc. are some of low hanging fruits awaiting to be used to reduce the peak demand.

(C) Capacity expansion at Kaiga Nuclear Power Project: When we consider various kinds of electrical energy losses in the prevailing integrated grid based system, the net benefit to Karnataka from the additional capacity at Kaiga NPP may be very small.  Assuming a share of 50% for Karnataka from this additional capacity, and accounting for a transmission and distribution (T&D) loss of about 20%, and the auxiliary consumption of 10%, Karnataka may get a maximum of 450 MW if both the additional reactors run at full capacity.  Since utilisation factor of a nuclear power plant is generally not more than 80% in India (and can be even much less when the share of renewable energy sources goes much higher by 2030) the benefit to the state on an annual basis may not be much more than 400 MW.

Such potential benefit to the state of Karnataka can be more than compensated by simple efficiency improvement measures in T&D system, agricultural pump sets, lighting in homes, commercial & industrial sites, and street lights at vastly lower capital costs.

As per Karnataka Renewable Energy Development Ltd., the state’s potential in renewable energy sources is about 28,000 MW (only medium and large size capacity suitable for grid connection are considered) of which only about 7,200 MW of installed capacity has been commissioned as on April 2017. If we also consider the vast potential of rooftop on various kinds of buildings such as residential, commercial, educational, industrial etc. for installing the solar power systems in the state, the possibilities are immense.  A high level estimate indicates that if on an average 1,000 Sq, ft of roof top in each of the 20% of the total households in the state (those houses which are structurally and economically strong) are used to set up solar photovoltaic panels a total solar power capacity of about 20,000 MW can be achieved with virtually nil GHG emission addition, nil water and land requirement and nil displacements of people. Such rooftop solar photovoltaic panels will drastically reduce the energy lost in transmission and distribution, and if connected to the existing grid network can eliminate the need for many additional conventional power plants. If the rooftops of various types of other buildings in the state such as schools, colleges, industries, offices, warehouse etc. also are effectively used the total solar capacity which can be realized will be enormous. Similarly, the agricultural pump sets of our farmers, which require electricity during the day time mostly in summer months, and which are officially accounted for about 30% of the total annual electricity consumption in the state, are ideally suited for solar PV systems.

Similarly, if our authorities care to look for such credible and benign alternatives available in our own state to the ghastly projects, such as the ones listed in this mail, the colossal costs to our people and irreparable damage to the critical elements of the nature can be considerably reduced or even eliminated. But in order to achieve this noble developmental objective, the state govt. has to accept the inevitability of effective consultation with the stakeholders and domain specialists.

Keeping all the issues raised in this representation, it needs to be emphasised again and again that there is a critical need for the entire state to deliberate objectively on all the overarching developmental policies at the societal level and to take principled stand to adequately protect the natural wealth of the state and mitigate and adapt to Climate Change.

The forests of the state, almost all of which are in WGs, and which are among the eight hottest of biodiversity hotspots in the world, are critical for the long term welfare of the state, and hence must be protected and enhanced at any cost, because no financial cost is too high in this regard as compared to the criticality/ecological benefits of the same.

Water stressed characteristic of the state should determine the developmental pathway for the overall economic development of the state in general, and for agriculture and industries in particular. Sustainable agricultural, horticultural and animal husbandry practices should become a fundamental approach from the Climate Change perspective.

Such rational and critical actions are possible only if the state takes care not to succumb to the demand by a tiny section of the society, which may have narrow vested interests, for unsustainable harnessing of our natural resources.

If the engineers and middle level officials of various govt. departments in the state cannot appreciate the importance of sustainable development and the need to adequately protect the critical elements of the nature, the onus shifts on to the heads of the departments, ACS, CS and the Ministers to reject such proposals, and also to persuade the concerned  engineers and middle level officials to think & work rationally.

May I hope that this lengthy representation will get the necessary attention, which it deserves?


Shankar Sharma

Power Policy Analyst

Phone: ++ 91 94482 72503