Kerala

Expert hints at vested interest behind anti-Athirappally protests

He hails government’s move to reopen hydro-electric project proposal

Certain agencies with vested interests have been unleashing false propaganda against all development projects in the State and the ongoing protests against the proposed Athirappally hydro-electric project too are no different, former member of the Kerala State Electricity Board and energy expert K. Radhakrishnan has said.

Talking to The Hindu, the former KSEB member (power generation) has welcomed the government’s move to reopen the hydro-electric project proposal which, according to him, will give sustainable boost to the State’s power sector without causing much harm to the forest eco-system.

According to him, the dam to be constructed in a comparatively small storage area cannot do much harm either to the forests or the environment.

Forest cover

The total area to be submerged was only 104 hectares of land of which natural forest cover only 28.4 hectares. This was very negligible in the river basin with more than 10,000 hectares of thick forests. Moreover, compensatory afforestation of double the area submerged was compulsory now, he said.

Mr. Radhakrishnan said the proposed 163 mw hydro-electric project would give an annual yield of 233 million units. The project had also been redesigned to maintain the beauty of the waterfalls round-the year.

A review of the two-decade-long chronological history of the Athirappally project amply exposed the meaninglessness in the decision-making process with regard to development projects.

The Athirappally project received forest clearance in 1997 and the environmental clearance in 1998. The Central Electricity Authority (CEA) had given techno-economic clearance in 2005.

The study conducted by Tropical Botanic Garden and Research Institute (TBGRI) and site visits by experts deputed by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change had ruled out any serious environmental impact.

Mr. Radhakrishnan said the project was again accorded environmental clearance in 2005, based on the environmental impact assessment study conducted by Water and Power Consultancy Services India Ltd (WAPCOS).

It was again accorded environmental clearance by MoEF, after several site visits by multi-disciplinary experts, in 2007.

Several petitions and agitations too delayed the project for 20 years from the date of its first clearance. The final clearance given four years ago too had been expired, leaving the State in a position to start fresh moves for obtaining clearance.

Allegations

Mr. Radhakrishnan said there were also serious allegations that power traders and private generators who wanted to sell electricity to the State had been funding the agitations against the Athirappally project.

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Printable version | Jul 7, 2020 7:14:34 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/expert-hints-at-vested-interest-behind-anti-athirappally-protests/article31827382.ece

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