Greens to Foil Athirapilly Project Revival Bid

The greens who waged a sustained legal battle against the project feel that the war is far from over, and that the Board cannot go ahead with the project.

Published: 13th August 2015 02:42 AM  |   Last Updated: 13th August 2015 02:42 AM   |  A+A-

KOCHI: The recommendation submitted by the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) to the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) to withdraw the showcause notice served on the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) on the Athirapilly hydel project is widely interpreted as a big step towards securing environmental clearance for the 163-MW project.

Meanwhile, the greens who waged a sustained legal battle against the project feel that the war is far from over, and that the Board cannot go ahead with the project.

As the environmental clearance (EC) granted by the MoEF in 2007 has already expired, the KSEB should apply afresh for EC and repeat the entire process. More over, the Kadar tribe living in the Vazhachal forest division is no longer a primitive tribe, but an empowered community armed with the Forest Rights Act, having legal right over around 400-sqkm of forest land in the area.

The showcause notice issued by the MoEF on January 4, 2010, had primarily raised the question of the primitive Kadar tribe that could be affected by construction of the dam. Though the EAC has taken the arguments of the KSEB that no tribal families were living in the submergence area, it seems to have overlooked the right to ‘community forest resources’ under the Forest Rights Act. The Kadar tribe, spread across 9 settlements, has already gained title to community forest resources of 400 sqkm of forest land in the Vazhachal forest division, placing another formidable hurdle for the KSEB to move ahead with the project. “They have claimed that the EAC recommendation was as good as getting environmental clearance, which is a wrong interpretation. The Kerala High Court closed our writ petition against the EC granted for the project on the grounds that the clearance had already lapsed,” said Chalakkudy Puzha Samrakshana Samithi secretary S P Ravi. “If the MoEF grants clearance, we will definitely take to legal recourse,” he added.

Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel(WGEEP) chairman Dr Madhav Gadgil told ‘Express’ over the phone that the WGEEP report had clearly stated that the project should not be implemented, and that it would be ‘completely wrong’ if the MoEF gave green signal despite all the evidence and brushing aside the local resentment.

“We held a detailed public hearing, at which the claims of the KSEB were exposed by the local people and the activists. The KSEB officials and government representatives had no points to counter the arguments against the project,” said Gadgil. “The claims of the KSEB with regard to the water flow and the predicted power generation were proved highly exaggerated,” he added.

Activists of the Chalakkudy Puzha Samrakshana Samithi informed that the organisation had submitted two detailed representations that exposed the claims of the KSEB over power generation and water availability. “But, the EAC did not even consider our arguments,” they said. The long-drawn litigation and public protests against the Athirapally project dates back to the 1990s. The first EC for the project issued in 1998 was suspended by the High Court in 2001. In 2006, the court nullified the second EC issued in 2005.


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