Though the recent visit of Union Minister for Environment and Forests Prakash Javadekar has revived the discussion over the feasibility of the 163-MW hydel power project in the Athirappilly, it is unlikely to materialise in the near future due to the opposition from eight settlements of Kadar tribal people, who have obtained Community Forest Rights (CFR) over 40,000 hectares of jungles surrounding the project site.
Talking to The Hindu , Oooru Mooppathi Geetha of the Vazhachal tribal settlement said 163 families of the area had obtained the CFR after a decade-long battle with the Forest Department and Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB). “I handed over a letter to the Union Minister, reminding him of our rights on the forest area. We will resist any attempt to take away our rights protected under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act of 2006,” she said. The CFR enables grama sabhas to reject any major project that may affect their livelihood.
The community had boycotted the last Lok Sabha elections to highlight their opposition. “We do not know why CPI(M) Polit Bureau member Pinarayi Vijayan recently said that the dam will be built if the LDF is voted to power. He said the dam will be constructed in a way that will not harm the waterfalls. How it is possible when water is diverted to the powerhouse much ahead of the falls and is re-released much below the falls,” she asked.
“The Forest and Tribes Welfare Department has issued CFR titles to eight Kadar settlements and one Malayar settlement last year. They all are vehemently opposing the dam which would cripple their livelihood and damage the Chalakudy river ecosystem,” said S.P. Ravi of Chalakudy River Protection Forum.
As per government’s own admission, the project will displace 163 Kadar families at Vazhachal and 71 families in the Pokalappara settlements.