Environment Support Group

Kali Bachao Andolan


The Kali River

The Kali river is one of many rivers that flows in the richly forested area of the Western Ghats. The river is 184 kms. long and flows into the Arabian Sea. Like many rivers in India, the Kali River is no exception — it has been abused on the path of “development”. There are 6 major hydroelectric dams that have submerged over 32,000 acres of the rich forests of Uttara Kannada. A 7th dam has been proposed now — it will submerge another 210 hectares of forest area and generate just 18 MW of power. In addition, there is the Dandeli Paper Mills that pollutes the river by releasing its untreated effluents directly into the river. Besides damming and pollution, there is also illegal sand mining on the banks of the river which disturbs the ecology of the river.

A number of people of Uttara Kannada want to put an end to this and want to protect the river for posterity. As a result, the Kali Bachao Andolan (Movement to Save the Kali) has been formed by Parisara Samrakshana Kendra of Uttara Kannada and the Environment Support Group along with several local community organizations and tribal villages of Uttara Kannada. This group has been formed to highlight the threats of damming, pollution, and illegal sand mining to the Kali River and to protect it from these threats.

The story of the Kali river is now available as a film. To order a copy of this film or to request a a screening, please contact ESG. The film is available in VHS and CD format in Kannada or dubbed in English and costs INR 750/-. Cost for overseas requests is USD 20 (+ USD 5 for postage). You can send a cheque or wire the money directly into ESG account.

Introduction to issues raised by the Kali Bachao Andolan

The Kali river is one of many rivers that flows in the richly forested area of the Western Ghats. The river is 184 kms. long and flows into the Arabian Sea. Check this schematic map to get an idea of the river’s location in Karnataka. Because of the dissolved manganese ores in its waters that is gathered along its flow, the river appears blackish. Like many rivers in India that have been abused on the path of “development”, the Kali River is no exception. It has been dammed, polluted, and sand-mined.

Damming of the river

On the river, there are already 6 major dams which generate over 1200 MW of electricity while submerging over 32,000 acres of forests in Uttara Kannada. In the process of generating this power, the State has lost a lot of rich forests in the Western Ghats. Like most developmental projects that involve displacement, displaced people have not been adequately rehabilitated. The people who had rich fertile land have been given land which cannot be farmed. As a result, several people have migrated to Goa in search of jobs. This is the familiar national story of displaced people ending up in slums in urban areas.

Now, a new dam has been proposed, to be sited at Mavalangi, near Dandeli. If approved, it will be constructed by Murdeshwar Power Corporation Limited (MPCL) to generate an additional 18 MW of power. However, this comes at the cost of submerging an additional 86 hectares of land. In total, 210 hectares of forest area will be submerged by the dam (this includes forest land on either bank of the river, river islands being submerged, river course that is part of reserved forest area, and land acquired for transmission lines and roads). The 70 hectares of forest land being submerged on both banks of the Kali River abuts the Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary which has rare flora and fauna.

When the existing dams already generate 1200 MW of electricity, and when the Kaiga nuclear plant generates another 400 MW of electricity, and when the power consumed by Uttara Kannada district is a mere 17 MW, the obvious question that pops up is: Why is this new dam being built? Is it worthwhile to pay the high environmental and social costs to generate a mere 18 MW? Is it worth damming the last remaining stretch of the Kali River that is still free-flowing? Have other alternatives like improving efficiency of existing hydel plants, micro-hydel and pico-hydel power generation (hydel power generation that exploit the flow of the river to generate power at low costs and no submergence) been explored? Haven’t the people of Uttara Kannada already paid enough costs for the larger development of the cost?

Even on purely legal grounds, the dam construction cannot proceed on two counts. First, there is a Government notification of 18th May 1987 (No. FFD 242 FGL 83) that states no further projects can be undertaken on the Kali river and its tributaries after the Kadra and Kodasalli dams if they involve further loss of forest land. Second, due to two instances of generating fraudulent EIAs (Environment Impact Assessments) by its consultants (first by Ernst & Young and second by Tata Energy Research Institute), this is a fit case for rejection.

On financial grounds too, the new dam does not make much sense. At a cost of over Rs.180 crores, the electricity costs over Rs.10 crore per MW and is one of the costliest power projects proposed. There have been reports that this power costs over 15 times the cost of power produced by Karnataka Power Corporation Limited (KPCL).

On several counts then, social, environmental, economic, legal, and developmental policy grounds, the new dam does not make sense and needs to be scrapped.

Industrial Pollution

Effluents Joining the River

The Dandeli Paper Mills at Dandeli on the banks of the Kali River releases large volumes of untreated effluents directly into the river thus polluting the river and converting a clean and beautiful river into a toxic waste stream. For communities who depend on this river, the adverse impact of these accumulated pollutants is quite significant. There have been losses in agriculture, dairy farming, and fisheries. Farmers indirect contact with the water suffer from a variety of skin diseases. Farmers that use this polluted water for irrigation find layers of pulp left behind covering the soil.

The concerned regulatory agency, the Karnataka Pollution Control Board has done very little to contain the damage, thereby allowing the Mills a free run on its polluting spree. Only recently, due to pressure from local communities under the banner of Kali Bachao Andolan, has there been some response with the local Assistant Commissioner initiating criminal proceedings against the company. Note that the demand is not a closure of the Dandeli Paper Mills. Rather it is to get the mill to clean up its operations for the benefit of all – including the employees of the mill.

Sand Mining

Sand Mining

There is illegal sand mining along the banks of river Kali and its tributaries. It is reported to be rampant in the Supa dam area. This illegal sand mining needs to be stopped as it disturbs the river ecology.



Press Releases

Images of the Kali River, the Valley and pollution of the Kali River by West Coast Paper Mills

The Kali river in Uttara Kannada district
River rafting conducted by Jungle Lodges and Resorts
Gowli tribals affected by the polluted waters of the Kali
Submergence caused by previous dams
Close-up of released effluents. Pulp can be seen floating in the water.
This image shows the confluence point where the effluents from Halmaddi Nallah join the Kali River. The dark coloured liquid at the bottom of the photograph are the effluents from the nallah.
Effluents discharged down Halmaddi Nallah

Images from the Dharna and March by the Kali Bachao Andolan in Bangalore on World Environment Day (5th June 2003)

Adivasis from the Kali Valley protesting the damming and pollution of the Kali River and the illegal sand mining
An affected villager holding a bottle of water from the Kali
Press Conference at the Press Club, Bangalore.

Images from the rally and protest at Dandeli on September 30, 2003 (day of the annual general meeting of the shareholders of WCPM)

Rally passing through Dandeli. This picture shows the rally passing through the bus stand.
The rally waits at an intersection in Dandeli. The picture shows women from the surrounding villages who have been affected by the pollution of the Kali River by WCPM.
The rally moves to meet Chandak (Executive Director, West Coast Paper Mills) at his office after the shareholder meeting.
The rally waiting outside the building of the offices of WCPM. The police has stopped the rally from entering further. There were about 30-40 police(wo)men for about 50-60 protestors at the rally. Ultimately, everyone was allowed to meet Chandak inside after the protestors stood their ground and refused to go.
One of the women telling Chandak and other company executives how she is being affected by pollution.
The picture shows the people in a conference room with Chandak. This was probably the first time that these people got a hearing with Chandak.

Take Action

Appeal to the Chief Minister of Karnataka:

We are enclosing a sample letter addressed to the Chief Minister of Karnataka, Mr. S.M.Krishna. We encourage you to endorse this letter by mailing the Chief Minister (and/or emailing the Chief Minister and marking a copy to the Union Minister for Environment and Forests, Mr. T.R.Baalu, and to ESG). Do encourage your friends and associates to sign and send many more letters.


There are many expenses we incur in organizing these efforts. We rely on your donations to cover part of the cost of this effort. Please do donate generously. All financial contributions (Cheque/DD/MO/Cash) should be in favour of Environment Support Group, and should be send to Environment Support. All monetary contributions benefit from income tax exemptions under Sec 80G of the Income Tax Act.

Your voice in support of the Kali Bachao Andolan will go a long way in supporting the cause of this river.

Environment Support Group ®
105, East End ‘B’ Main Road
Jayanagar 9th Block East
Bangalore – 560069. INDIA.
s Tel: 91-80-22441977/26531339
Fax / Voice Message: 26534364
Email: [email protected] [email protected]
Web: www.esgindia.org

Parisara Samrakshana Kendra,
Hulemalgi Building, Chowkimath,
Sirsi (Uttara Kannada Dt.)
Karnataka 581401
Tel: 91-8384 425139/425039
Fax: 91-4435450/ 427839

Mr. S.M.Krishna,
Chief Minister of Karnataka,
Vidhana Soudha
Bangalore 560001 INDIA
Email: [email protected]

An appeal to save Kali River for posterity

Honourable Chief Minister,

We appeal to you to address the concerns raised by the Kali Bachao Andolan (KBA) formed by several local community organizations and tribal villages to highlight severe threats to the Kali River and protect it for posterity. We appeal that you should take the initiative in ensuring that the Kali is saved for posterity.

Please ensure that:

  1. No more dams will be allowed on the Kali.
  2. The serious pollution of the Kali from the Dandeli Paper Mills and other sources is ended immediately.
  3. Illegal sand mining on the Banks of Kali and its tributaries is stopped.

We support the aspirations of the people of Uttara Kannada who want the Kali flowing and alive with life. Not dammed, polluted and dead.


(EMAIL ID, if any)


  1. Shri T.R.Baalu, Union Minister of Environment and Forests,Governemnt of India , Paryavaran Bhavan ,Lodi Road , New Delhi 110 001
  2. Kali Bachao Andolan , C/o ESG or PSK

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