The Ooru Sabha (tribal council) of Kadar tribe in Vazhachal will meet on August 23 to reject the Athirappilly Hydro Electric Project, posing fresh headaches to the Kerala State Electricity Board, the project proponent.
The Board was hopeful of reviving the project, which was recently cleared by the Expert Appraisal Committee for River Valley and Hydro Electric Power Projects.
It would be by invoking the legally-binding Community Forest Rights (CFR) under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, that the tribesmen would deny permission for the project. The Act mandates the prior permission of the Ooru Sabha for undertaking any activity that would have a bearing on their livelihood.
The Vazhachal meeting would be followed by a meeting of the Pokalappara tribal settlement. V.K. Geetha, chieftain of the Vazhachal tribal settlement, said the Athirappilly project was rejected twice by the Vazhachal Ooru Sabha. It will again come up for consideration following the recent developments, she said.
K.S. Subramaniyan, chieftain of the Pokalappara Ooru Sabha, said the council will hold its meeting after the Vazhachal session. He too stood against the project.
According to Ms. Geetha, the experts had reported that no tribal hamlets existed anywhere near the project site.
“No one, except Madhav Gadgil, the head of the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel, visited the settlements. The reports that favoured the project were bundles of falsehood and lies,” Ms. Geetha told The Hindu .
Harish Vasudevan, a legal expert on environmental issues, said the Supreme Court had upheld the legal validity and enforceability of CFR. The clearance of the tribal councils was a prerequisite for projects that have even obtained the forest and environment clearance from the MoEF, said Mr. Vasudevan.