The Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) has revived the idea of setting up a 70-MW hydroelectric project at Pathrakadavu, close to the Silent Valley National Park, five years after it was abandoned in 2007 following strong opposition from environmentalists.

A top government official told The Hindu on Friday that the revived proposal was now before the Forest Department for its comments.

The KSEB tells the government that the project should be considered as a compensation for the Silent Valley project that was shelved in the early 1980s. It is more of a run-of-the-river power project involving the inundation of only 4.10 hectares.

Totally, the project will require just over 26 hectares of forestland and the entire area is outside the park boundary. In all respects, this is a unique project with very little requirement of forestland for the generation of such a substantial quantity of electricity, according to the KSEB.

Describing the context in which Kerala needs to take a relook at some of the shelved hydroelectric project proposals of the past, the KSEB informs the government that the State is headed for a power crisis. Matters have to be set in motion at least now to increase the power generation capacity in the State. Out of the total hydroelectric potential of 6,000 MW, the State has succeeded in harnessing only 2,036 MW.

The KSEB has got a detailed environmental impact study conducted by the Environmental Research Centre in Thiruvananthapuram for the project. The study has identified certain impact, but has also proposed a detailed environment management plan for both the construction phase and post-construction phase. The report strongly recommends the implementation of the project since the impact is minimum and containable and the benefits, quite substantial, the KSEB informs the government.

The KSEB points out that many of the hydroelectric projects in the country are inside national parks or sanctuaries. In Kerala, none of the hydroelectric projects is in conflict with the national and State environmental policies, the KSEB argues.

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