Says there is not enough water to generate the power claimed

Chairman of the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP) Madhav Gadgil said in Thiruvananthapuram on Saturday that the Athirappilly hydel project was undesirable, not just on environmental, but on technical and economic grounds also.

During an interaction with the media on the sidelines of an international conference on Conservation of Forests, Wildlife and Ecology, he said the WGEEP report had termed the project undesirable on the basis of inputs provided by the River Research Foundation.

“They found that there is not enough water to generate the power claimed. This naturally pushes up the cost of generation. The foundation also revealed that the project would affect downstream irrigation schemes and waterfalls impacting on the tourism potential of the area. Besides, it will destroy one of the last low elevation riverine forests”.

Forest Rights Act

Prof. Gadgil said the project would also violate the Forest Rights Act. “Yet there is a clamour that Kerala needs it”. He said WGEEP had held a meeting with representatives from the River Research Foundation and the government before finalising the observations on the project.

“The government engineers who were present raised no objections. Hence, we came to the conclusion that there is no justifiable case for a dam”.

Asked for his opinion on the options for a power-starved State like Kerala, he said the solution lay in demand side management.

“We are only thinking of generating more power while there is an urgent need to curb wastage and switch over to energy efficient methods”.

Prof. Gadgil said the panel’s recommendation to decommission dams that had outlived their age was open to discussion.

“It is a proposal that can be reversed if convincing arguments can be brought up through a democratic debate”.

He said the southern regions of the Western Ghats including Kerala were richer in biodiversity and better conserved than northern regions such as Maharashtra and Gujarat.