Ecologists have accused Power Minister A.K. Balan of issuing misleading information based on mistaken facts regarding the Athirappilly hydroelectric power project.
It was a letter shot off by Mr. Balan to the Kerala MPs on the eve of a meeting of the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Committee with the parliamentarians from the Western Ghats region in New Delhi on Tuesday that invited the criticism of the environmentalists.
The Minister had claimed that studies by the Tropical Botanical Garden and Research Institute (TBGRI) and the Kerala Forest Research Institute (KFRI) and the environment impact assessment by WAPCOS had reported that the project would have only minimum environment impact.
Mr. Balan had also criticised the inclusion of V.S. Vijayan and A. Lata of the Chalakudy River Protection Council on the panel.
As the duo had been opposing the project, their inclusion had resulted in a “situation where the complainants themselves are looking into the complaint,” wrote Mr. Balan.
‘No study by KFRI'
Reacting to the letter, Mr. Vijayan said that the KFRI had not carried out such a study and the one by the TBGRI was rejected by the Kerala High Court earlier. The Minister seemed to have got erroneous information about the project.
The facts are quite different from what has been quoted by him in the letter, he said.
“The Minister's apprehension that justice would not be delivered due to my inclusion in the panel is baseless. The eminent ecologists in the panel will decide on the issue based on scientific facts and they would never go by my statements alone,” he said.
Mr. Balan had also stated that he had no faith in the panel following the presence of these members.
Meanwhile, Ms. Lata denied the statement of the Minister that she was a member of the panel.
She accused the Minister of making statements without understanding the mandate and constitution of the panel. The Minister was under the wrong impression that the panel was formed for looking into the impacts of the Athirappilly power project, she said.
However, it was constituted for identifying the ecologically fragile areas of the Western Ghats and evolving a conservation strategy for the region.
The Athirappilly project was just one of the issues before it, she said.
The approach of the Union Ministry for Environment and Forest in considering the entire Western Ghats area as a single ecological entity and taking steps for conserving it should be appreciated, Ms. Lata said.
However, the State government was unwilling to take up its responsibility of protecting the ecology.
Unfortunately, Mr. Balan had failed to understand the significance of the task and was unnecessarily dragging people into the issue, Ms. Lata said.
‘Shun narrow approach'
The government should shun its narrow approach and embrace a broader perspective for protecting the ecology of the region, Ms. Lata said.