The former Electricity Minister A.K. Balan has come down heavily on Union Minister for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh for his stand that the Centre will not give environmental clearance to the Athirappilly hydel project.
At a news conference here on Friday, Mr. Balan demanded to know how the Minister could take such a decision at a time when the whole question was being studied by the Madhav Godbole Committee and after it had been given clearance three times by the Centre.
Referring to Mr. Ramesh's letter to the Prime Minister on June 15 on the subject stating that Kerala should be compensated for the loss it may sustain on account of denial of clearance for the Athirappilly project, Mr. Balan demanded to know the rationale of the letter when it was clear that the Centre would do nothing of the kind.
The letter, he said, was yet another proof that the project was subverted by the Prime Minister's Office. Mr. Ramesh himself had written in the relevant file that Prime Minister's Principal Secretary T.K.A. Nair was against the project and that he was himself convinced that the project would create adverse environmental problems.
Mr. Ramesh's letter showed that there was outside interference in the whole affair. Mr. Ramesh should clarify why he had referred to Mr. Nair in the file and, on his part, Mr. Nair should say whether he had taken a stand against the project, the former Minister said.
The State government should show the political will to secure clearance for the Athirappilly project. It should take steps on an emergency basis to implement the Cheemeni thermal power project which could be taken up without causing any environmental problem.
The Cheemeni project was originally conceived as a coal-fired one with 2,400 MW capacity. Subsequently, it was converted into an LNG project with 1,200 MW capacity. The draft of the environment impact assessment report prepared by Ramky Enviro Engineers Limited was also published on June 15.
Some environmental activists had come out against the project on the misunderstanding that it was still being sought to be implemented as a coal-fired project. This was not true.
However, there might be difficulties in importing the LNG required to run the project. The State government should get the Centre commit itself to steady supply of LNG for the project by taking up gas exploration in the Krishna-Godavari basin on a war footing, Mr. Balan said.