Electricity Minister A.K. Balan has said a big conspiracy has been going on against the proposed 163 MW hydro-electric project at Athirappilly in Thrissur district, but the State is hopeful of surmounting the difficulties posed by the conspiracy.
In a press release on Friday, he said the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) had presented before an expert appraisal committee of the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests its reply to the objections certain environmental groups had raised against the project.
Mr. Balan said the expert appraisal committee had met in New Delhi on Thursday in the light of the KSEB's reply. Media reports suggested that the committee could find no substance in the objections against the project. However, the committee had not taken its decision as yet. It had asked the KSEB to submit certain details regarding the biodiversity of the area that would be submerged with the setting up of the project, he said.
Mr. Balan charged Union Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh with the impropriety of unilaterally announcing that his Ministry would cancel the environmental clearance given earlier for the project. Mr. Ramesh did this even before the setting up of the expert committee that was now examining the validity of the objections against the project.
In fact, in response to a complaint from an organisation of environmentalists, the Union Minister had earlier issued a direction to his Ministry to cancel the clearance given to the project. But the Ministry took the position that the clearance given after observing all the legal procedures could not be cancelled just like that. The Ministry, therefore, issued a notice to the KSEB to show reasons why the clearance should not be withdrawn in the light of the objections raised by certain organisations. It also set up an expert appraisal committee to examine the facts of the case, Mr. Balan said.
He said even after placing the whole issue in the hands of the expert committee, the Union Minister had been going around saying that the clearance given for the project would be cancelled. Mr. Ramesh had dragged even the Prime Minister's office into the issue by saying that the Prime Minister's Principal Secretary had advised him against allowing the project, Mr. Balan said.
He said certain negative observations State Biodiversity Board Chairman V.S. Vijayan had made against the proposed project too had come to his notice. This was not a subject on which Dr. Vijayan should give his personal views. Mr. Balan said he had brought the matter to the notice of the Chief Minister.