Kerala govt faces criticism for nod to hydel project
Environment activists have criticised the Kerala government’s decision to renew the no-objection certificate for a proposed hydroelectric project near the picturesque Athirapally waterfall in Thrissur district.
Even the Communist Party of India (CPI), a junior partner in Kerala’s Left Front government, has opposed the move even though the state administration says all stakeholders will be consulted in taking the project forward.
Supporters of the project say it will not cause any harm to the waterfall and the ecology in the area, but critics suspect damage to environment, inundation of large tracts of land and displacement of tribal families residing in the area.
The project, on the 145-km Chalakudy River, was conceived in the 1980s when the state was hit by power shortage, but was shelved due to stiff opposition. It was revived when the Pinarayi Vijayan government came to power in 2016.
If set up, the project near Athirapally, a favourite movie shooting destination, will have an installed capacity of 163 megawatts and spread across 6.7km. The dam for water storage, particularly, has emerged as a cause for concern.
“Chalakudi river already has many big and small dams. It can’t withstand more. Preventing natural course and storing water led to many disasters in the past. In Chalakudy, we don’t want pristine forests to be submerged and many tribals evacuated,” said VS Vijayan, an environmental scientist.
He was in the team of Madhav Gadgil, who has prepared a report to save the fragile ecology of the Western Ghats in 2011 on the instruction of former Union environment minister Jairam Ramesh.
“It seems the state has failed to learn a lesson from two consecutive floods (in 2018 and 2019) that claimed many lives...Votaries of the new dam should think about the future generation also,” Vijayan said.
The previous no-objection certificate to the project was issued in 2016 by the state power ministry. It was set to expire in July.
Tribal families living in the forests, too, are apprehensive. “They will have to kill us before building the dam. It is a ploy to plunder green cover and destroy the serene waterfall,” said Kadar tribe leader P Kaliappan.
State power minister MM Mani clarified that renewing the non-objection certificate was a natural process and it didn’t mean the project will be commissioned immediately.
“We are not in a tearing hurry. All stakeholders will be taken into confidence. Activism is okay, but it should not be at the cost of the state’s development,” Mani said.