Just after the Left Democratic Front (LDF) assumed power in Kerala in last May, the state Power Minister stirred a controversy by announcing that his government would go ahead with Athirappilly  Hydro Electric project. When his statement drew sharp criticisms, the government softened its stand clarified that it was only calling for a debate and the project would only be implemented after reaching consensus. 

 

Replying to a question in Kerala Assembly on Tuesday, Power Minister MM Mani disclosed that the government had started the spadework for the 163-megawatt project and land acquisition proceedings were on. The minister's statement exposed the fact that the government was secretly moving ahead with the project while it convinced the public that it was waiting for a consensus. 
 

Also read: CPM, CPI spar over Athirapally power project in the state

 

Women protest against Athirappilly hydel project

The local people and environmental activists have warned strong agitations against any move to implement the project. "We will not allow any move to start acquisition of land. We will consider strong agitations to stop it, including struggle modeled after Chipko movement," said SP Ravi of Chalakkudy River Protection Council. "The hydel project will further worsen the water crisis in the state. Above all, it is not a solution to the energy crisis in the state," he added.

 

It is estimated that the project would destroy 138.6 hectares of dense forests of the Western Ghats, which is one of the bio-diversity hot spots in the world.  


Even the CPI, the second-largest party in the ruling LDF was apparently kept in the dark on the project. The party's response to the minister's statement was very sharp. "Athirappilly project is not the manifesto of the LDF. The front will decide on whether to move ahead with it or not,"Kanam Rajendran, state secretary of the CPI said. The youth and students organisations of the CPI also came out against the project. 

Related: Jairam Ramesh flays government move to implement Athirappally project

The leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala wrote a letter to Chief Minister demanding that the government should back off from implementing the hydel project. The Madhav Gadgil and Kasturi Rangan Committees on Western Ghats protection have taken strong exception to the project.

 

Athirappilly water falls: The hydel project will destroy the water falls, environmentalists warn.

KPCC president VM Sudheeran alleged that the contractor lobby in the Kerala State Electricity Board was behind  the project. The hydro electric project would be a failure and they know that very well. Yet the government is moving ahead because it want mega constructions to drain public money into their accounts, he added. 

 

The 163 MW Athirappilly project was in the centre of a longstanding controversy since it was proposed in forest areas near the scenic Athirappilly waterfalls a decade ago. 


 
The Centre had rejected the green clearance to the project in 2011. Kerala State Biodiversity Board had pointed out in 2007 that the hydropower project would adversely affect ecology in the area and the scenic Athirappilly waterfalls.