Athirappilly Hydel Project plan has many hurdles to face

The government is yet to start activities necessary to get the project moving.

Thiruvananthapuram: The LDF government’s eagerness to keep the 163-MW Athirappilly Hydel Project alive is a bit of a mystery. None of the activities necessary to get the project moving, be it a revised cost-benefit analysis or securing the consent of the tribes living in the proposed project or the identification of compensatory land, has been carried out.

Further, two cases filed by tribals living downstream the proposed project site are still pending in the High Court. And the government has less than five months to get all the fundamentals cleared before work starts; the environment clearance granted by MoEF will expire on July 18, 2017.

Steps to rework the project cost fixed six years ago (then estimated at '570 crore) are said to have begun. If the new assessment throws up a figure over Rs 1000 crore, KSEBL will have to subject the project for a ‘techno-economic’ clearance, which is essentially a cost-benefit analysis. Sources said KSEBL might, therefore, come up with a revised estimate of Rs 820 crore. The figure seems highly unrealistic as even the 60-MW Pallivasal Extension Project, which is still not complete, has by now consumed more than Rs 500 crore.

It is also pointed out that the consent of the nine tribal settlements or ‘oorukoottams’ is inevitable for the project to begin. “The tribes have acquired community forest rights in 2014 with the advent of Forest Rights Act. This means that the 450 sq kms of forest land, within which the project site falls, are under their custodianship. For any non-forestry activity to happen in the area, the consent of the oorukoottams in Vazhachal and Pokalappara is a sine qua non,” said Dr Latha Anantha of Chalakkudy River Protection Forum. The tribes have gone to court citing violations to the Forest Rights Act. Except for KSEBL, the other parties in the case, the state Forest Department and MoEF, have not made their submissions in court despite repeated requests.

Finding compensatory land, too, is mandatory. Under the Forest Conservation Act, double the forest land acquired should be handed over for afforestation. The project is proposed to come up in 136 hectares of which 104 hectares will be submerged. Senior officials say that steps were yet to be initiated to identify the compensatory land, 272 hectares.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
Next Story