Athirapilly is another Silent Valley, rich in biodiversity, which needs to be protected, said Jairam Ramesh, Union Minister for Environment.
Talking to media persons here on Monday, Mr. Ramesh said that the State should look for alternative proposals for power generation indicating that clearance will not be issued for the hydel project.
Incidentally, the Kerala State Electricity Board had proposed to set up a power project at Athirapilly waterfalls and the move had invited protests from environmentalists. Similarly, the Board’s proposal for setting up a power project at Silent Valley 25 years ago had to be shelved following stiff resistance from the Nature lovers and environmentalists.
Mr. Ramesh said that the permission issued earlier for the Athirapilly project was withdrawn after him assuming the office of the Union Minister for Environment. The State government has also been asked to stop all the work related to the project till an expert committee for approval looks into the issue, he said.
“I was flooded with representations from various sections of the society including environmentalists against the project. I had also been to the area earlier,” Mr. Ramesh said.
The representations filed against the project and the stand of the Board favouring it has been forwarded to the committee, he said.
The Ministry had earlier received a reply from the Board on the show cause issued to it asking why the permission issued for the project should not be revoked. All these matters have been referred to the committee. However, the final decision will be taken by the Minister, Mr. Ramesh said.
The revoking of the permission for the project had invited the wrath of the State authorities including the Power Minister A.K. Balan who had come out in open against the Union Minister’s stand.
The Environment Minister said that his Ministry would interfere in Munnar if there were any instances of encroachment of forest land. If any forest land is used for non-forest purposes, there will be action.
Any such diversions call for intervention and the Forest Protection Act is a central legislation applicable to the whole of country, he said.
“It is my responsibility as the Minister of Forest and Environment to protect the environment and the Forest Protection Act is my Bible,” Mr. Ramesh said.