Proposed dam inside the Periyar Tiger Reserve
: An Environment Impact Assessment of the proposed Kerala Periyar Dam, which will replace the existing Mullaperiyar dam in Idukki, will begin shortly.
The Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) has contracted the Kerala Forest Research Institute, Peechi, Thrissur to do the job.
The impacts are being assessed as part of the preparation of a Detailed Project Report of the dam. The new dam has been proposed at 366 metres downstream the existing one, which is inside the Periyar Tiger Reserve.
The Board had earlier prepared a draft detailed project report for the new dam. It had also obtained permission from the Ministry of Environment and Forest to carry out the required surveys for the new structure.
The Minor Irrigation Department had also approached the State Forest Department seeking the release of the land required for the dam, which is in the core tiger habitat of the Periyar Tiger Reserve.
An eight-member multi-disciplinary team of the Institute will carry out the studies for the Board. The team, which will be headed by T.V. Sajeev, entomologist at the Institute, will have ecologists, wildlife biologists, botanists, soil science expert and sociologists as its members. It will focus on the impact of the dam construction on the flora and fauna of the 50-hectare area in and around the proposed site.
The social impact of the proposed construction, including the rehabilitation activities and the results of submergence of vegetation, will also be studied.
According to indications, the expert team will carryout a pilot study in the region within a fortnight. The pilot study will be followed by a detailed study. The experts from the Institute, who studied the impact of increasing the height of the existing dam one decade ago, had stated that an area of 11.219 sq km in the Periyar Tiger Reserve and Kumily town will be submerged if the water level in the dam was raised to 152 ft from 136 ft as demanded by Tamil Nadu.
The study had also pointed out that the vegetation in the submergible area was a major source of food and fodder to the wildlife. Raising the reservoir level will threaten certain endangered varieties of flora, it was reported.
Meanwhile, an expert committee headed by Rajesh Gopal, member-secretary of the National Tiger Conservation Authority, which was asked to study into the impact of the new dam is yet to begin its work.
The team, appointed by the Ministry of Environment and Forest, has not yet visited the proposed site.
“The convenience of the team members are being sought for the purpose and reminders will be issued to them in this regard,” said Mr. Gopal.