K. Santhosh

THRISSUR: The Union Ministry of Environment and Forest's Expert Committee on River Valley Projects, authorised to recommend environmental clearance for the 163-MW Athirappilly hydel project, interacted with supporters and detractors of the proposed dam on Friday.

The five-member committee, led by P. G. Sastri, described the meeting, held at the Town Hall here, as an "interaction with people.'' "This is a discussion, not a public hearing,'' said Prof. Sastri.

Detractors of the proposed project pointed out some of its alleged demerits: damage to rare flora and fauna, ecological problems resulting from submergence of riparian forests, damage to the vital elephant corridor between the Parambikulam sanctuary and Pooyamkutty forests, displacement of Kadar tribesmen and depletion of irrigation and drinking water resources.

Those who spoke against the project included C. R. Neelankan, Francis Pulikken, president of the Athirappilly Merchants' Association, Asasal of the Solidarity Youth Movement, Davis Kizhakkumthala of AWARD, an NGO, Ammini, a resident of Athirappilly, Leena Davis, president of the Chalakudy Block Panchayat, A. Latha of the River Research Centre, Sarada Prasad of the Athirappilly Vana Samarakshana Samithy, K. K. Shelley and S. P. Ravi of the Chalakudy River Protection Forum, K. K. Sajan, Standing Committee chairman of Puthenvelikkara Panchayat, K. Geeta, tribeswoman, Biju S. Chirayath, Chalakudy municipal councillor and C. R. Raghunanandan of the Kerala Sastra Sahitya Parishad.

Representatives of the Kerala State Electricity Board alleged that the campaign against the proposed dam was misguided. Pariyaram Panchayat president U. G. Velayudhan, Kadukutty Panchayat president K. D. Devassy and Melur Panchayat president Babu, all from the CPI(M), supported the proposed dam. But Athirappilly panchayat president Kanchana Vijayan of the CPI(M) opposed the project, saying she represented the "people's point of view.''

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