Kasturirangan panel member Sunita Narain says the proposed dam will affect downstream flow

Athirappilly hydel power project proposed across Chalakudy River cannot be implemented in its present form, environmental activist Sunita Narain, who heads the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), has said. She is a member of the High Level Working Group on Western Ghats, chaired by K. Kasturirangan, which looked into the viability of the project.

The Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) had proposed a hydroelectric dam across Chalakudy River that would generate 163 MW of power.

Speaking on the sidelines of a seminar here on Wednesday, Ms. Narain said the KSEB had not submitted details of the ecological flow of the river to the panel.

The panel had taken into consideration the distance between two dams in the river and the waterfall. If the dam was constructed in the present form, it would have implications downstream, she said.

While the KSEB has been campaigning for the implementation of the project, environment groups opposed the move stating that its implementation would adversely affect the ecology of the region. The Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel headed by Madhav Gadgil had rejected the proposal when the matter was referred to it by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests.

According to Ms. Narain, any future proposal for Athirappilly must take into consideration the guidelines suggested by the Kasturirangan panel. If a dam is constructed against the panel’s recommendations, it will be a short-sighted move by the State government. The project requires serious review so that it does not destroy the ecology of the region, in particular the downstream ecological flow.

In its report, the panel had observed that “given the increased variability, in flow from catchments due to unpredictable monsoon rains, the project may be revaluated in terms of the generation of energy and if the plant load factor expected in the project makes it viable against the loss of local populations of some species.”

It also suggested that Kerala could take forward the proposal with the Ministry after revaluation and collection of data on ecological flow.

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