Scientist’s Open Letter to Karnataka CM: “Yettinaholé project is ecologically disastrous and economically unviable”

We are happy to publish full text of an Open Letter written by Dr. T.V. Ramchandra, Center for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, to Karnataka CM Shri. Siddaramaiah. The letter transparently questions Yettinahole Project, while strongly rebutting Karnataka Neeravari Nigam Limited’s (KNNL) propaganda against IISC Report which has established that Yettinahole Catchment does not have the 24.01 TMC water as per KNNL DPR, but only about 9 TMC water, which is used by the basin residents. (https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2015/05/21/yettinahole-diversion-project-literally-holds-no-water/). He does not limit himself to hydrology and ecology, but with detailed rainfall analyses, also debunks the fact that Kolar and Chikkaballapur face acute water scarcity. He staunchly bats for rainwater harvesting, rejuvenating lakes and tanks and afforestation with native species as cheaper and more reliable method to ensure water availability.

We are fortunate to have fearless and forthright scientists like Dr. TVR and Prof. Madhav Gadgil who rise up to stand by a just and scientific cause. We wish we had more of such stalwarts, especially from the academia..

21 October 2015


The Chief Minister, Government of Karnataka

Dear Chief Minister of my state,

Greetings on the auspicious occasion of Dasara -Vijaya Dashami!

I am writing this open letter through media to you regarding Yettinaholé project as it appears that (i) my earlier letter (10th May 2015) written to you has not got any response or any meaningful scientific discussion / deliberation and (ii) to bring to your kind notice the consistent negative propaganda resorted by Karnataka Neervari Nigam Limited (KNNL) against me and my colleagues. This letter is to assert again that the proposed Yettinaholé project is ecologically disastrous and economically unviable as the purpose of supplying to water parched region would not materialize as there is insufficient water yield in the catchment. (Emphasis Added)

We request you to take note of the following and urge you to take appropriate sensible decision from the interest of sustainability of natural resources and overall development of Karnataka.

Yettinaholé: Insufficient water to quench the parched region’s demand

Yettinaholé catchment extend from 12044’N to 12058’N Latitude and 75037’E to 75047’E longitude encompassing total area of 179.68 km2. The terrain is undulating with altitude varying from 666 m above MSL to 1292 m above MSL leading to higher density of stream network. Geologically, rock types consists of Gneiss, the soils are loamy ranging from sandy loamy to clay loamy. Soils in the region are fertile and highly permeable, hence allowing the precipitated water to percolate easily into the subsurface recharging ground water and storing water in the sub surfaces and hence keeping the water source perennial to the catchment and the downstream users during and post monsoon.

The presence of these thick evergreen forests and grass lands in the catchment are responsible for higher infiltration and perennial streams. Any anthropogenic activities involving large scale land cover changes would affect the hydrology of the river basin affecting the dependent biota.

The region’s ecological and economic importance is evident from: Yettinaholé and its immediate neighboring catchments falls under the Ecological Sensitive Zone 1 (ESZ 1)  and as per the recommendations of the working group there shall be strictly no developmental activities. The region is vulnerable and prone to frequent human animal conflict (Elephant Human conflict) as per the Karnataka Elephant Task Force and any alterations in the elephant corridors would enhance human animal conflicts threatening the survival of elephants.y16Hydrology yield computed is comparable to Computations by Mayya S G (NITK Surathkal), Paramashivaiah (Hydrologist) [TV 9 news channel discussion dated: Jul 23, 2013-https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQDaaA6W8mI ] indicate that the water yield is about 8 – 10 TMC (comparable to our calculated value of 9.55 TMC per year). This highlights that drawing waters to cater the needs of drinking water in the neighboring district would be an illusion as there is insufficient water to meet all demand in the catchment.

DPR [Detailed Project Report] estimate of 24 TMC in Yettinaholé catchment is erroneous due to:

  • Assumption of 6280 mm for entire basin is a serious error as temporal rainfall data (1901-2010) of Directorate of Economic and Statistics, Government of Karnataka show the rainfall variation of 3500 and 4800 mm across the sub-basins.
  • Use of the Inglis-DeSouza equation (i.e., R = 0.85 P – 30.5, R: Runoff and P: Precipitation) without field verification for the entire basin. This equation is applicable only for few sub-basins (as per our stream gauging in sub-basin). Now we have done the computation using this approach and the water yield as per Inglis-DeSouza equation does not exceed 10 -15.75 TMC (depending on rainfall) highlights over estimate (24 TMC in DPR) which needs verification and justification.The project being drinking water, needs to consider 90% dependability
  • Yettinaholé diversion project if implemented will not help either the residents of arid regions in Karnataka (Chikballapur, Kolar, Tumkur) or local people in Gundya river basin. Residents of Yettinaholé catchment would be deprived of their right for water, while people in the arid regions would only get to see dry canals, etc. Implementation of Yettinaholé project would lead to water scarcity in Hassan and Mangalore, and will not benefit Chikkballapur, Kolar, etc. Livelihood of Yettinaholé and Gundia catchment would be affected severely due to lowered agricultural and fisheries yield similar to the residents of Nallur district with the implementation of Telugu-Ganga project. The project if implemented deprives the local people their right to water under Article 21 of the constitution of India. In India, the constitutional right to access to water can be drawn from the right to food, the right to clean environment and the right to health, all of which have been protected under the broad rubric of the Right to Life guaranteed under Article 21 of the constitution. In addition to article 21, Article 39 (b) of the directive principles of state policy (DPSP), which the Constitution declares to be non-justiciable, recognizes the principle of equal access to the material resources of the community. Article 39 (b) mandates that ‘the State shall, in particular, direct its policy towards securing that the ownership and control of the material resources of the community are so distributed as best to subserve the common good.’
  • The precautionary principle articulated in the constitution prescribes that: (i) the environmental measures taken by the state and the statutory authorities must anticipate, prevent and attack the causes of environmental degradation; (ii) that where there are threats of serious and irreversible damage, lack of scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for posting measures to prevent environmental degradation; and (iii) that the ‘onus of proof’ is on the actor or the project proponent to show that his action is environmentally benign.
  • The proposed project would alter the hydrologic regime affecting the local ecology,“The constitutional and statutory provisions protect a person’s right to fresh air, clean water and pollution-free environment, but the source of the right is the inalienable common law right of clean environment.”
    • The implementation of the project will cause large scale land cover changes in the region.biodiversity and more importantly livelihood of people in the region
    • The proposed project would cause habitat fragmentation and shrinkage resulting in enhanced Human – Animal conflicts.
    • The forests are ecologically and economically beneficial to humans. The economic value of the region is higher (> 200 Billion Rs.) and emphasise the need for conservation to sustain livelihood of dependent population.

Considering these, the proposed project would be ecologically and economically unviable as it would weaken the food and water security of the region. It is necessary to take note of deliberate attempt in indicating higher water yield and drop the proposal (Yettinaholé diversion project). This would save the state from spending unnecessarily on the project which is bound to fail due to lack of water.

DPR – based on unrealistic Assumptions and manipulation of water yield: The proposal is contrary to the principles of water sustainability as well as resiliency of water bodies to avoid water crisis.y1





Kolar and Chikkaballapura districts have sufficient amount of yield (more than 50 TMC, each district), which meets the demand in the region, provided integrated management of natural resources is done now. Sustainable cost-effective options are:

  • Decentralized water harvesting (through series of lakes and tanks).
  • Rejuvenation and Restoration of lakes/ponds.
  • Planting native species of plants and herbs in the catchment.
  • Watershed/catchment treatment (engineering as well as ecological options)– planting of native sapling, Recharging ground water resource. Implementation of soil and water conservation strategies at micro level.

These measures could be implemented in 24 months and money required is a fraction of the money sanctioned for Yettinaholé project.(Emphasis Added)

The response to a scientific document should have been a scientific dialogue with all stakeholders and not negative pervasive propaganda. The very act of offensive strategy by KNNl further highlights the anomaly in the project. Our responses are:






Academicians  working  at  premier  research  institutions  such  as  Indian  Institute  of  Science  in INDIA  enjoy  academic  freedom which empowers them  to  undertake  research  of  their  choice  and relevance to the society. The report is prepared by our group (as part of ongoing research “Modelling of  Hydrology  and  Biodiversity  Linkages  with Landscape  Dynamics”  and  in  response  to  the request from local people)  and has been issued by me  on  behalf  of  Energy  &  Wetlands  Research Group, CES, Indian Institute of Science. This study was  carried  out  as  a  part  of  scientist’s  social responsibility

It is the responsibility of the chief custodian of the State to ensure sustenance of natural resources while providing security and ensure that all citizens including scientists are not harassed by unrealistic bureaucracy. We hope you would intervene and soon convene all stakeholders meeting – an open house to interact and discuss the merits and demerits of KNNL ‘Yettinaholé project’ proposal including our scientific report.

With best wishes and Dasara Greetings,







SANDRP’s work on Yettinahole:







Yettinahole River Photo: SANDRP
Yettinahole River Photo: SANDRP

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