CHALAKKUDY: Environmentalists have expressed concern over whether the proposed hydroelectric project at Athirappilly waterfalls would lead to displacement and eventual extinction of the primitive tribal group, `Kadars,' in the area.
According to environmentalists, the Chalakkudy river basin, which includes the Athirappilly waterfalls area as well, is the only home of the `Kadars,' who number about 1,500.
A study conducted by the River Research Centre, Ollur, found that of the 1,500, the proposed hydel unit was likely to displace 234 persons (163 at Vazhachal and 71 at Pokalappara).
M.K. Jaineesh of Kottappuram Integrated Development Society (KIDS), an NGO implementing the `Jalanidhi' water supply scheme at Athirappilly, said a survey conducted by it had found that the population of `Kadars' at Vazhachal was 103 and at Pokalappara, 74.
Though both these figures may appear to be small, the important issue is that the project threatens to shatter the livelihood of `Kadars', who
depend mainly on fishing and forest produces, says Amitab Bachan, who has conducted extensive studies on the tribes people in the Chalakkudy river basin. Going by past experience, it is difficult to believe the claims of the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) that the tribes people would be rehabilitated in the catchment areas of the proposed power-generating unit. Even if that were to happen, these tribal people would be alienated from their time-tested life-style and culture, which eventually will lead to their extinction, Mr. Bachan says.
Sunny George, environmental scientist, said the entire tribal population in the Chalakkudy river basin had been badly affected by the series of projects, including dams, hydel projects and other related human interventions over the years. "Not only the Kadars, but also the Muthuvas, Malayas, Mala Malasars, and Mannans have been put to suffering by such interventions in the past," he said.
Dams and hydel units forming part of the Parambikkulam Aliyar Project (PAP) such as the Sholayar, Upper Sholayar, Parambikkulam, Peruvarippallam and Thoonakkadavu as well as the Peringalkoothu dam have contributed to this. Construction of the now-defunct forest tramway through the area had also displaced several tribal colonies," Dr George said.
Mr. Jaineesh said the authorities had offered alternative employment to some tribals who would to be displaced by the project.
However, a large majority of the tribes people were opposed to the project as they would be alienated from their traditional lifestyles and culture, Mr. Jaineesh said.