KOCHI: The proposed Athirapally hydroelectric project (HEP) is poised to get a fillip, with the State Government deciding to go ahead with the project after obtaining environmental clearances from the Central Government.
KSEB, Ernakulam, assistant executive engineer, C C Thobias on Monday submitted an affidavit at the Kerala High Court, stating that at a high-level meeting held on March 13 to discusses implementation of the Athirapally project, it was decided to go ahead with the project after getting clearances from the Centre. The environmental clearance for the project, issued on July 18, 2007, for five years, has expired.
The KSEB submitted that the State was facing serious power crisis, which would aggravate imminently if no adequate electricity generation was ensured.
“Kerala has no known reserves of gas, petroleum or coal for developing thermal energy at affordable costs. All the thermal power stations in the State, with a total installed capacity of about 771 MW, are based either naphtha or low sulphur heavy stock (LSHS). The thermal power stations can only be used sparingly due to the prohibitive cost of naphtha and LSHS. Transportation of the fuel is very costly, and the interstate transmission corridor is over loaded as the density of population is very high.
According to the KSEB, any delay in executing the project would result in irreparable loss to the State in terms of energy. The project will be using tailrace water to generate 163 MW of electricity during peak hours, which would contribute immensely to Kerala’s power requirement. Also, there will not be any kind of resettlement.
“Environment clearance was accorded thrice for the project. The High Court had not found any legal infirmity on the two occasions regarding the clearance, but for certain procedural lapses. The Ministry of Environment and Forest, Central Electricity Authority and the Central Water Commission had appraised the project several times. Five different committees constituted by the MoE has examined the project in detail, and arrived at the same conclusion,” stated the KSEB. The affidavit stated that the State Government and the KSEB were equally or more concerned about conservation of nature and the ecological balance.
“Development of a state is interlinked with power production and uninterrupted supply at low cost. Whenever a hydel project is proposed, a lot of objections are raised in the name of environment and ecosystems. While implementing hydel projects, development programmes and environment protection should go hand-in-hand, without downgrading one at the cost of the other. Therefore, in the interest of the public and the KSEB, it is better to implement the project,” stated the affidavit.
HC Closes Pleas against Project
The Kerala High Court on Monday closed further proceedings on petitions seeking to quash the environmental clearance granted to the Athirapally hydroelectric project. A Division Bench comprising Chief Justice Ashok Bhushan and Justice A M Shaffique issued the order, and observed that the environmental clearance granted to the project had expired, and that the authorities were not in a position to implement the project. “The petitions have virtually become infructuous and are liable to be closed. However, if the environmental clearance is renewed or a fresh one is obtained, it shall always be open for the petitioners to challenge it,” held the Bench.