Athirappilly Hydro Electric Project, one of Kerala's prestigious projects has an installed capacity of 163MW (2x80MW + 2x1.5MW), 233 Mu (firm energy). It is located in Chalakudy river basin in Thrissur district. The scheme envisages the utilization of release from Poringalkuthu powerhouse, spill from Poringalkuthu dam and the inflow from 26 square kilometer of its own catchment, downstream of Poringalkuthu dam. In order to maintain the charisma of Vazhachal Cascade and Athirappilly falls, a small powerhouse of 3 MW (2 x 1.5 MW) is also proposed at the toe of Athirappilly dam.
The total forest area to be diverted for the project comes to 138.00 Ha. only and the submergence area extends over 104.4 Ha of forest area, of which 28.4 Ha is natural forest, 36.8 Ha is reserve forest plantations and 39.2 Ha is riverbed.
The Central Electricity Authority (CEA) had accorded Techno economic clearance for this Project (2x 80 MW) on 31-3-2005. The Environmental clearance to the project was obtained on 20-1-1998 based on the rapid Environmental Impact Assessment study conducted by Tropical Botanic Garden & Research Institute (TBGRI) including site visits by experts deputed by MoE&F. Stage-I Forest clearance was accorded by Ministry of Environment & Forest (MoE&F) on 22-12-1997 and the Stage-II forest clearance on 16-12-1999. There is no displacement of tribes or any families.
The project was again accorded Environmental Clearance in 2005, based on the EIA study conducted by Water & Power Consultancy Services India Ltd (WAPCOS) ,as a result of a judgment by Hon’ High Court of Kerala ,on procedural grounds i.e. due to change in the EIA notification, public hearing was made mandatory. The project was ,still again accorded Environmental Clearance in 2007 by Ministry of Environment & Forest including site visits by experts from various disciplines deputed by MoE&F again, based on a judgments by Hon’ High Court of Kerala,on procedural grounds i.e. due to change in the EIA notification ,circulation of EIA report was made mandatory.
Different yardstick for Kerala- A suspicious game.
The implementation of the project was delayed due to a writ Appeal pending consideration before Hon’ High Court of Kerala with respect to re-tendering of execution of the project by KSE Board. Two Public Interest Litigations (PIL) have also been filed against the grant of environmental clearance. The Hon’ High Court had concluded the hearing of the PIL reserved for judgment. Meanwhile, KSE Board is in receipt of a show cause notice issued by MoE&F dated 4.1.2010 w.r.t revoking the environmental clearance granted by MoE&F.
MoE&F is a respondent to the PIL pending disposal before the Hon’ High Court of Kerala. Standing Counsel appearing on behalf of Govt. of India was present during the conduct of hearing. MoE&F have not filed any affidavit for or against the case till date. The action of MoE&F is so apprehensive and unconvinced.
Three different expert committees constituted under statute by MoE&F consisting of 13 members each had examined the project and came to very same conclusion i.e. with regard to issue environmental clearance. Various experts in various disciplines had visited the project site from 1997 to 2007 and forwarded their recommendations to MoE&F. Two public hearings were conducted viz in 2002 & 2005 to facilitate the public to express their opinion and outlook.
It is based on all the above that MoE&F had accorded environmental clearance in 2007. If a Ministry issues notice to revoke a clearance already issued, then why constituted a Committee of experts to examine the projects and crores of expense to exchequer?. The MoS has remarked that by ‘eyesight’ they had judged the impact. If such is the case, then why rules/acts /notifications etc for conducting EIA studies. A deplorable precedence is being created and unheard in the history of Power sector in India.
The show cause notice cites the proposed Athirappilly project will affect the bio-diversity. The same ministry had cleared 12 projects proposed inside or in proximity to Wild Life Sanctuaries and National parks else where in the country. This includes diversion of 1016 ha of forestland from a Wild Life Sanctuary in Andhra Pradesh for construction of a hydroelectric project.
Most of the wild life sanctuaries in our state house reservoirs owned by KSE Board. Above all, if there were concern on environment, then why no one challenged the forest clearance issued so far.
There is a hidden agenda to delay the implementation of the project and make it unviable i.e. project cost in 2001 was Rs 409 cores has heen raised to Rs 567 crores in 2006. We should not allow those who work against the development of the state to flourish and let our next generation should not starve for power at reasonable price.