In a complete reversal of its stand, the union ministry of environment and forests (MEF) has cleared the 73.5 mw Pooyamkutty hydroelectric project in Idukki district in Kerala, endangering about 2,870 ha of state forest and the traditional way of life of thousands of mat and basket weavers. Although, the union minister of state for environment and forests, Kamal Nath, had emphatically denied clearance to the project in the Parliament in March, MEF cleared the project within the next few days, yielding to hectic lobbying by the Kerala chief minister, K Karunakaran.
Organisations like the Kerala Shastra Sahitya Parishad and the Save Pooyamkutty Campaign Committee have been hitherto successful to halt clearance on the ground that the small amount of electricity generated will not be compensated by the submergence of forests and loss of genetic resources. Citing a study conducted by the Kerala Forest Research Institute at Peechi, M K Babu of the Idukki-based Green Earth Movement pointed out that the Pooyamkutty project will disrupt the rich growing grounds of reeds, an important raw material for the paper industry and the only source of livelihood for about 300,000 traditional mat and basket weavers.
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