Thiruvananthapuram: Dams may have gone out of favour with those who witnessed the deluge last week in Kerala, but the State’s power minister, M.M.Mani, is certainly not one among them.
And if the Greens thought that the 163-MW Athirappilly hydro-power project and the dam are as good as shelved, after the havoc wrought by the Chalakudy Puzha, the opposite is true.
"I am for the Athirappilly project," Mr Mani told Deccan Chronicle. "It will be a good source of clean and cheap power. I do not agree with those who criticize the project and others who seek to junk it in the wake of the recent floods? Dams give us power, which is the single most important driver of growth. If you inhabit the present, you will have to tap modern amenities. Anyone who thinks otherwise is living in the ancient”.
DC raised this question as part of the discussion on dams and environmentalist Medha Patkar’s comment that the latest havoc was “dam-made”. 80-plus dams, big and small, were opened when dam engineers realized reservoirs would spill/fail if the storage rose further, but there is also the criticism that it was done without sufficient homework on evacuation.
Prof K.S. Vijayan, the former chairman of the Kerala State Biodiversity Board, says, “Minister Mani will not change his stand because he is advised by engineers with vested interests. I doubt whether the Chief Minister holds a similar opinion. His latest comments are for a switch to holistic development.
“If Mr Mani wants clean and cheap power, he should explore the solar option. Athirappilly’s latest estimate is `1,500 crore but the yield would not be more than 25 mw as against 163 mw, touted by KSEBL. They hope to sell power at `2.50 a unit, but the actual cost would be `15 if one factors in the ecological loss. Let the minister spend this amount or a little more, he can tap solar power without vandalising the forest”.
Chalakudy River Protection Committee leader S Unnikrishnan said it was high time the Government scrapped the nonstarter project that had eaten away crores of rupees for maintaining the KSEBL’s on-site office. That would be a good demonstration of the government, which asks people to tighten their belts.
He said the committee planned to estimate the recent flood havoc caused to the Chalakudy basin and prepare a flood-level mapping. For now, the case regarding the “lop-sided” environment impact assessment of Athirpally project is pending with the high court.
The proposal, first mooted in 1982, has seen a protracted course, with repeated EIAs, clearance by the Centre, litigation, conflicting reports by Prof Madhav Gadgil and Dr Kasturirangan and former Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh taking a stand against it....