Green clearance sought for Athirappilly project
NEW DELHI, JULY 4:
Notwithstanding opposition from environmentalists and the Union Minister, Mr Jairam Ramesh, Kerala government is pressing for green clearance for Athirappilly hydro power project in the ecologically sensitive area in Thrissur district.
The Chief Minister, Mr Oommen Chandy, who met the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, yesterday seeking clearance for the 163 MW project, argued that the project is “environmentally least destructive.”
The Western Ghats Ecology Experts Panel, headed by Mr Madhav Gadgil, has recommended that environmental clearance be denied to the project as it falls in the Ecological Sensitive Zone 1 (ESZ1).
Mr Chandy said the total land required for the project is 138.6 hectares of forestland, of which the area to be cleared is only 65.2 hectares (28.4 hectares of natural forest and 36.8 hectares of teak plantation).
No rehabilitation and resettlement is involved, the Chief Minister said.
Mr Chandy sought the Prime Minister’s intervention on the issue and requested him to “withdraw the showcause notice issued in 2010 for revoking the environmental clearance.”
Those who oppose the project, including Mr V.S. Vijayan, a member of the Gadgil Committee, argue that implementation of the project would lead to huge loss of invaluable biodiversity and wildlife.
Livelihood of thousands of people living in the downstream of project would be hit, if it is implemented, they argue.
The Rural Development Minister, Mr Jairam Ramesh, who blocked the project in 2010 when he was Environment Minister, said in Thiruvananthapuram last week that “as a concerned citizen I hope the State government will listen to the people of Kerala who have argued against the project.”
Mr Chandy said he has requested the Prime Minister to direct the Environment Ministry to “consider the anxieties expressed” by the State and over the Gadgil committee report on the Western Ghats.
Terming its suggestions as “impractical to implement,” he urged the Centre to leave the matter to be decided and implemented by the State government.
“The Environment Ministry has been requested to do away with the proposed Western Ghats Ecology Authority, for the State government to take appropriate conservation measures on its own under the existing legislations and notifications under Environment (Protection) Act,” Mr Chandy said.
The panel has made recommendations for ‘zonation’ of the Western Ghats and adjoining land areas depending on ecological parameters and for formation of the Western Ghats Ecology Authority at national level to regulate activities in the respective zones.
“The proposed zonation uniformly applicable for all the six Western Ghats States is detrimental to the interests of the State. Though the exact boundaries of each zone have not been fixed by the panel, the tentative recommendations would make development or even human activities unable in certain areas where the width of the land is less,” he said.
Mr Chandy said the issue was debated in Kerala Assembly wherein the State government has conveyed “its dissent to the impracticable recommendations in the report” and has declared setting up of an expert committee to examine the panel report in the context of the objections raised.