Though Chief Minister Oommen Chandy has said that Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) would be carried out for all the projects under Emerging Kerala, it has been pointed out that many projects, particularly those in the tourism sector, may not get environmental clearance owing to their very nature and location.
Environmentalists in the state, led by former State Biodiversity Board chairman V S Vijayan, will soon meet the Chief Minister, listing those projects which violate the regulations of the eco-sensitive and coastal zones, proposed by the MoEF and the Western Ghats panel.
The Rs 150 crore ‘Marine Leisure Island’ at Dharmadam Thuruthu in Kannur proposes to set up an eco resort and recreation centre on six acres of land under the Tourism Department. Being a virgin island 100 metres off the mainland, issuing a clearance would violate the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) norms.
Similar is the case of the Adventure Sports Enclave proposed at Muzhappilangad Beach. Another major proposal is to develop and set up eco-campsites at the islands in Kakkayam. Out of the total 10 islands, five have been earmarked for development.
While major constructions inside the forest land are prohibited, an eco-resort and convention centre have been proposed near Karappuzha dam in Wayanad.
The proposed eco resort at Ilaveezhapoonchira, a Rs 100-crore project, has already kicked up a controversy for its location. The project also proposes to have cable cars and camping facilities here.
Another major initiative which has already courted controversy is the 40-cottage eco resort and golf course at Vagamon. As per the notification on the website, 100 acres of land is available with the Tourism Department for the Rs 120-crore project.
The Holistic Health Resort and Spa at Nelliampathi, proposed to be set up at a cost of around Rs 50 crore, on 25 acres of land, has also drawn flak from various corners.
“There are many projects which should not be given environmental clearance, as per the recommendations of the Madhav Gadgil Western Ghats Ecology Panel. Also, there are projects which violate the CRZ norms. We have already started listing out these projects. We will soon approach the Chief Minister seeking his intervention in this regard,” said V S Vijayan, who is also a part of the Madhav Gadgil panel.
There are a total of 57 small hydro-power projects proposed to be presented at Emerging Kerala investors’ meet. Most of the projects, suggested at different riven basins, including Pampa, Ithikara, Valapattanam, Onipuzha, Manimala, Peruva, Bharathapuzha, Chaliyar, Pooyankutty, Kaliyar, Chittur, Perumboola, Thoniyar, Kallar, Kakkad, Azhutha, Kabani, Meenachil, Periyar, Siruvani and Panniar, are proposed to have an annual energy generation in the range of 1 Mu to 52.22 Mu.
Since these are relatively small projects, the clearance from the state Forest Department and State Wildlife Board will be sufficient. Interestingly, most of these projects have already been proposed by the KSEB.