Even though Cheemeni in the northern district of Kasargod does not come under the ecologically sensitive spots identified by the panel, political leaders feel that the environmentalists may use the panel recommendations to oppose the project. The government had originally proposed to set up a thermal project at Cheemeni but it was converted to a gas-based project due to opposition from the local people. Even the federal government had opposed the thermal project, citing difficulty in transporting coal from Orissa.
The Madhav Gadgil panel itself had opposed the Athirappilly hydro-electric project in Trichur district. Athirapilly, where there is a water fall, is among 25 places identified by the panel in Kerala as ecologically sensitive.
Senior Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader and former Electricity Minister AK Balan had termed the panel report prejudiced. He said that the members of the panel were known anti-project campaigners. V.S. Vijayan, ecologist, who was publicly opposing the project, was one of the prominent members of the panel. Pointing out that three entirely different teams of experts had given clearance to the Athitapilly project, Balan urged Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan to reject Gadgil panel report not to give permission to the project.
Kerala had proposed the Cheemeni project as it was difficult to get clearance for hydro-electric projects, which leads to submergence of large tracts of forests. The state would need 3,740 MW of power by 2017. This is projected to go up to 6,000 MW by 2021. Kerala has not been able to add significantly to its generation capacity after the Idukki project was commissioned in 1976. Most of the hydel projects proposed by the government, including the Silent Valley project, since then were turned down due to resistance from the environmental lobby. The Cheemeni project is considered feasible because it doesn't involve submergence of any forest or displacement of large number of people. There are only 43 families in 2000 acres of land the Kasargod district administration has identified for the project.
The administration has also located land to rehabilitate the affected families. The local people have also hailed the project as it would solve not only the acute shortage of power by the State but also act as a catalyst to the development of the backward district.
The natural gas for the power plant can also easily come from the Krishna-Godavari basin.
Source- Khaleej Times