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20 July, 2007

How forest friendly is Karnataka's Wind Energy?

Posted on 10 July 2007. Updated with google maps on 5 June 2013.

A view of one of the hills carved up for wind farms and electricity transmission lines, seen from the Sri Rangapatna - Bidar State Highway No: 19 (proposed National Highway^) just north of Huliyar Town along Chitradurga - Tumkur districts' border.
For quite some time, renewable energy sources have been touted to be a viable alternative to coal energy that causes global warming and hydro energy that drowns prime forests.

To encourage renewable energy production, the Government is aggressively pushing wind energy production. But these days, wind farms are being set up by businessmen whose main concern is profit making and not nature conservation. Tens of thousands of wind turbines and electric power transmission lines have sprouted all over south India, particularly in the immediate vicinity of Western Ghats.

Among the areas where wind turbines have been erected in Karnataka are the hills and highlands of eastern parts of Chitradurga district and in western parts of Tumkur district. We saw these windmills first hand this month and I am sad to say that these windmills have had a very immediate negative impact in the forests where they have been set up.
1) Each such wind mill has a concrete base of at least 30 feet by 30 feet.
2) Each one of these has an individual road access.
3) Hundreds of trees have been removed to accommodate these giant "fans" and electric power transmission lines.
4) The transportation of giant equipment to set these wind mills (and also the electricity transmission lines)  requires movement of trucks as well as earth moving equipment, many of them heavy, which causes long term damage to the forest and soil as well as enormous disturbance to the local flora and fauna.

An approach road on one of the hills carved up for wind farms just north of Huliyar town in Tumkur district along its border with Chitradurga District. 

A not too pretty scene of the aftermath on one of the hills carved up for wind farms, electricity transmission lines and access roads just north of Huliyar town along Chitradurga - Tumkur districts' border.

Aerial view (google maps) of windmills and access roads inside Chitradurga district's largest contiguous forest, Mari Kanive state forest (230 + sq. km together with Kudure Kanive SF & Kudure Kanive SF Extension I) ~
Click here for a larger map

Aerial view (google maps) of windmills and access roads inside Tumkur district's largest contiguous forest, Bukkapatna reserve forest (132 sq. km). #
Click here for a larger map.

A google map screenshot highlighting the largest contiguous forests in Chitradurga & Tumkur districts where windmills have come up. Located to the north-west are Mari Kanive state forest and surrounding forests like Kudre Kanive (230+ sq. km. in Chitradurga district). The ones south of it are Bukkapatna state forest (136 sq. km in Tumkur district) and its surrounding forests like Manchaldore reserve forest.
Click here for larger map
This way almost every hill top of the Mari Kanive state forest and other reserve forests along Tumkur-Chitradurga border has just been devastated. The same is true to the largest contiguous forest of Tumkur District - Bukkapatna reserve forest (136 sq. km). The building of these roads and power transmission lines along with iron ore mining (much of it illegal) has also "opened up the forests for tree looters" and the situation is "just out of control in Mari Kanive forests" according to a local forest watcher . These wind mills are atop the hills that extend for hundreds of kilometres north, up to Gadag district, in north Karnataka.

Due to their destructive nature, there already have been protests against the setting up of wind farms in the Western Ghats of Karnataka, namely Baba Budan Giri range (adjoining Bhadra Tiger Reserve) and Kudremukh National Park.

As a nature lover I have opposed hydro dams as being detrimental to forests. But, by witnessing the damage done by wind farms in Karnataka's forests, I doubt if wind energy in our country is really that green.

But that brings us back to where we started. What is the alternative? Or is there really one?

With Mallikarjun (Mallik) and Guru Prasad TV

Wind farms on almost every hill top inside the Mari Kanive State Forest in Karnataka's Chitradurga District. Electricity transmission lines cutting through the forests can also be seen.

A hill top carved up for wind farms inside the Mari Kanive State Forest in Karnataka's Chitradurga District.


# Working Plan for Tumkur Forest Division, Approved by Govt. of India, Ministry of Environment and Forests dated: 01-02-2002, for the period 2001-02 to 2010-11.

~ Deputy Conservator of Forests, Chitradurga Division


  1. Sad pictures. I hope you don't mind that I suggested them for the gallery at National Wind Watch in the U.S.

  2. Suzlon shifting new projects from Maharashtra: "Problems with local farm owners is forcing Suzlon Energy Ltd to shift close to 150 MW of new projects away from Maharashtra to Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka in the current financial year, according to Mr Tulsi Tanti, Chairman and Managing Director. ...

  3. This is a typical example of lop-sided development happening at the expense of our precious bio-diversity in the name of "clean energy". It needs to be countered by increasing public awareness and scrutiny of the governement policy.

  4. The alternatives, I could think offhand, are: a) keep searching for other other sources of energy which do minimal damage to our environment b) reduce our use of electricity through conservation and discipline c) ensure there are proper rules/laws under which wind energy is harvested so that, again, the locations are not in or close to sensitive areas and require minimal changes to the landscape, Ex. close to already existing roads.

  5. But same time i read a recent US report, which says "On an average every wind turbine kills 4 birds in a year" you can think of the amount of bird deaths which go unnoticed. :-(


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