The Union environment ministry has put a damper on Kerala government’s hydroelectric project in Thrissur district. On January 4, the ministry issued a showcause notice to the state electricity board for revoking clearance to the 163 MW Athirapally hydel project on Chalakudy river.
The notice pointed out that the construction of the dam would displace the Kadar tribals near the proposed dam site. It also took note of the biodiversity endangered by the project. The ministry had cleared the project on July 18, 2007 (see ‘Centre says yes to Athirapally project in Kerala’, Down To Earth, September 15, 2007). Its decision to revoke the clearance follows protests by environmentalists and ongoing court cases. “The ministry has finally woken up to the concerns we have been voicing,” said M Mohandas, convenor of the Athirapally action council, a citizens forum. He said the project is not viable as there isn’t enough flow in the river. The proposed dam would also threaten the farms irrigated by Thumdurmuzhu check dam, 20 km downstream. If water is released suddenly from the Athirapally dam, the farms would be destroyed, said Mohandas. The electricity board spokesperson said the ministry would not have cleared the project if it was unviable. He said the board has taken care of “details of displacement”. Kerala environment minister, A K Balan, has assured the ministry he would review the project without bias.
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