With a series of environmental problems and degradation threat looming large over the rivers Pampa and Achankovil in the wake of the recent Supreme Court order directing the Centre to implement the proposed river linking projects, Kerala Electricity Workers Federation (KEWF) has called upon the Government to expedite the proposed small hydro-electric projects (SHP) in Pampa and Achankovil rivers on an emergency basis.
Talking to The Hindu, Mr M. Sukumara Pillai, KEWF spokesman and veteran trade union leader, said it was high time Kerala State Electricity Board pursued the proposed SHPs in Achankovil-Kallar (30 mw), a tributary of river Achankovil, Chelikkalar (15 mw) and Vakkalar (24), both tributaries of river Pampa in the larger interest of protecting the State’s growing energy requirements and irrigation needs.
Mr Pillai, said the projects, envisaging generation of a total of 69 mw of power, should be implemented with out causing much damage to the forest environs.
KSEB has already completed the Environment Impact Assessment of the Achankovil-Kallar project and carried out the public hearing too in this regard two years ago and the project is awaiting clearance from the Union Ministry of Environment and the Forest Department. The 30 mw Achankovil-Kallar project is estimated to cost Rs 163.96 crore, according to KSEB sources. The project also requires submergence of about 100 ha of forest land and three ha of private land.
The KEWF spokesman said the Vakkalar SHE project envisaged utilisation of inflow from Vakkallar by constructing a 28-metre high dam at about 65 metres downstream on the confluence of the Vakkalar with Kadamanthodu leading to Pampa.
The impounded water is proposed to be diverted for power generation through a water conductor system consisting of a 3100-metre long concrete-lined power tunnel. Two generators of 12 mw each will be installed at the power house on the right bank of the river Pampa–Kallar to generate 60 million units of power on an annual basis.
The tail race of the project will be discharged into the Pampa-Kallar river leading to river Pampa. The environment Impact Assessment of the project was under way, KEWF spokesman said.
Meanwhile, KSEB has started preparation of the detailed project report of the proposed Chelikkalar project. All the three small hydro-electric projects are run-off the river schemes.
Mr Pillai said the Irrigation wing of the Water Resources department too had proposed another project named Twin-Kallar multi-purpose project, earlier, envisaging both irrigation of farm lands and power generation.
Three years ago, the Mullapperiyar Cell chaired by former KSEB member and dam safety expert, M.K. Parameswararn Nair, had recommended the Government to implement the Twin-Kallar project on a priority basis.
According to Mr Nair, the Twin-Kallar project is the only feasible scheme that can cater to various needs of the two river basins.
Mr Pillai alleged criminal lapses on the part of the Government in not taking up any of these projects seriously, leaving room for the NWDA to moot the Pampa-Achenkovil-Vaipar Link Project which would be disastrous to the State.
The Twin-Kallar project is a moderate storage scheme with an installed capacity of 60 mw.
But, the area of submergence under the Twin-Kallar scheme will be only 864 ha (301.9 ha for Pampa-Kallar reservoir and 562.1 ha for Achenkovil-Kallar reservoir).
The project with a gross storage of 296 mcm will cater to the summer needs of the Achankovil river, ultimately beneficial to the Kuttanad region, says Mr Parameswaran Nair. The Mullapperiyar Cell was of the opinion that the scheme had certain inherent advantages, compared to the proposed Pampa-Achankovil-Vaipar Link Project by the National Water Development Agency.
However, the KSEB was not in favour of the Twin-Kallar project as it involved submergence of a large extent of forest area which was difficult to get clearance from the Forest department.
KEWF spokesman is of the opinion that small hydro-electric projects as proposed by the KSEB will be a better option to address the State’s power problems without causing much damage to the environment and eco system.