CHENNAI: The devastation brought about by the Chennai floods this month could be replicated at Cheyyur because of the upcoming Ultra Mega Power Project there, warn environment activists.
According to the activists in the Community Environmental Monitoring program of environmental group The Other Media, the Cheyyur project would effectively block drainage from several of the area’s lakes into the Odiyur Lagoon, causing floods in the region in the event of heavy rainfall. They claim that the power plant was being build too close to water bodies.
For its part, the Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Company (TANGEDCO) dismissed the allegations. “We have got all clearances necessary from the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change and the TN Pollution Control Board,” says TANGEDCO CMD M Saikumar.
Listing their concerns and observations in a report titled ‘Chennai Today; Cheyyur Tomorrow’, the group claimed that the impact of the recent rainfall on the proposed sites of the Cheyyur UMPP shows that most of them are under water. “We found during visits to the area that the power project is coming up in an area which has major drainage channels from the districts lakes into the Odiyur Lagoon and the building of the plant will block these channels. The result will be that water from these channels will flood other areas,” said environmentalist Nityanand Jayaraman.
The panel of environmentalists and scientists that has raised the issue includes hydro-geologist J Saravanan, retired Madras Institute of Development Studies professor S Kanakarajan and retired IIT-Madras professor T Swaminathan. According to the panel, the project has been sited and approved ignoring the fact that the area has nearly 81 water bodies, nearly 71 of which come under the catchment area set to be affected by the power plant. “Revenue records reveal that the project will encroach upon more than 160 acres of water bodies. Locating the power plant in such an ecologically and hydrologically sensitive zone will imperil both the plant and the surrounding areas,” said Jayaraman.
The group also claimed that the project proponent had declared to the government there are no water bodies in or near the project site and assumed that a maximum 24-hour rainfall would be 280 mm. However, the Cheyyur station of the Regional Meteorological Department recorded over 380 mm of rainfall in a single 24-hour period in December. The Cheyyur Power Project has been a constant source of protests for both its alleged environmental impact in the highly sensitive ecological zone and its financial viability. There is a case in progress asking for cancellation of the project at the National Green Tribunal currently, while a report released by US-based Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis for Chennai-based Indian Institute of Public Policy claimed the project’s pricing would be five times higher compared to other UMPPs.
Status of different sites for power plant components following recent rainfall
Captive Port: To be set up on the sand dunes and beach land between Panaiyur Periakuppam and Chinnakuppam
Status: Site for port under water. Dunes part of micro-catchment system drained through seasonal stream
Stormwater drain: Proposed site already has small seasonal stream running through it. Adding large quantity of water from a different catchment potentially disastrous for ecology
Main Plant Site: Land identified for plant is inundated, with 150 of the 800 acres categorised as water bodies in Revenue records. Building plant will divert water from here to other non-flooded areas