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KPL conflict, Karnataka, India


On 14 November 1984 the government of Karnataka made an angreement with Harihar Polyfibres (of the Birla family), a rayon producing company. The new company Karnataka Pulpwoods Limited (KLP) was owne 51% by the governemnt and 49% by the Birla.

KPL eucalyptus plantation would occupy almost 30 000 ha in the northern part of Karnataka. The project overlooked the claims of the local villagers who depended on these lands to meet their basic needs. The move evoked widespread protest from the local villagers and several non-governmental organisations. The Samaj Parivartana Samudaya, a Dharward-based NGO, with the support of other organisations and eminent personalities such as Shivaram Karanth, Justice DM Chandrashekhar and Kadilal Manjappa led the "Save the Common Lands Movement" to reclaim their lands and rights. Initially, the campaigners sent petitions to local government officials and met the then chief minister, Ramakrishna Hegde with a plea to cancel the KPL agreement. But when these efforts did not yield the desired results, the affected people held a series of protest meetings and demonstrations in several places on November 14, 1986, which coincided with the anniversary of the setting up of the KPL.

In December 1986, a public interest litigation case was filed in the Supreme Court by Shivaram Karanth, Anil Agarwal and others. The Supreme Court issued a stay order on March 24, 1987 to maintain the status quo with regard to the possession of land. However, the kpl continued its operations. Meanwhile, the people of Kunsur (or Kushnoor) and the surrounding villages launched a satyagraha on November 14 1987, which is now popularly known as the Kunsur satyagraha with a novel form of protest, termed the Kitikho-Hachiko (Pluck an Plant) satyagraha. Led by drummers, waving banners and shouting slogans, the protesters uprooted eucalyprus saplings before planting in their place species useful for fruir or fodder.

Due to a sustained struggle for over seven years, 72 legislators from various political parties brought effective pressure on the government to close the KPL. On October 3, 1991 the government wound up the KPL.

There was a connection to the Chipko movement in the Himalaya of the 1970s: in 1990 on India independence day, 15 August, the respected Chipko leader Chandri Prasad Bhatt led a pluck-and-plant satyagraha in Hirekerrur taluka of Dharwad.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:KPL conflict, Karnataka, India
State or province:Karnataka
Location of conflict:Kushnoor area
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Plantation conflicts (incl. Pulp
Specific commodities:Eucalyptus

Project Details and Actors

Project details

The state government decided to lease over 28,350 hectares of degraded and reserved forests lands in the Kunsur (or Kushnoor) cluster of villages for forty years to the Karnataka Pulpwood Ltd (KPL) - a joint sector company formed on November 14, 1984 by the government of Karnataka and the Birla-owned Harihar Polyfibres - for raising captive eucalyptus plantations.

Project area:28,350
Type of populationRural
Start of the conflict:14/11/1984
End of the conflict:03/10/1991
Company names or state enterprises:Birla from India
Karnataka Pulpwood Ltd from India
Relevant government actors:Karnataka State government
Supreme Court of India
Chief Conservator of Forest
State Assembly (Karnataka)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:NGO Samaj Parivartan Samudaya (SPS) with the Guddanadu Abhivruddi Samiti (a village organization)

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Local ejos
Landless peasants
Local government/political parties
Forms of mobilization:Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Development of alternative proposals
Land occupation
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Street protest/marches
Saplings of eucalyptus were uprooted and replaced with tree species locally useful.


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage)
Potential: Desertification/Drought, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsPotential: Malnutrition
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Loss of livelihood, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Specific impacts on women
Potential: Displacement, Violations of human rights


Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Institutional changes
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
New legislation
Strengthening of participation
Project cancelled
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Yes
Briefly explain:Local movement stops an industrial tree plantation by state government and by a power industrial conglomerate (Birla) in order to protect local livelihoods. Support from local legislators.

Sources & Materials

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Guha, R., and J. Martínez-Alier, 1997. Varieties of environmentalism: essays North and South. London: Earthscan, p. 6-11.

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

Down to Earth article (1998)

Meta information

Contributor:J.-F. Gerber
Last update03/05/2014