Thiruvananthapuram: The Kerala government has given its nod for the Athirappilly hydroelectric project, which was originally planned over four decades ago but had to be put on the back burner due to various controversies and protests.
The state government has given the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) the permission to go ahead with the project despite opposition from its ally CPI and in a U-turn after it had announced in the Assembly in 2018 that the proposal will be dropped.
The AIYF has already started protesting against the government’s decision. The opposition in the state has called it a breach of people’s trust and said it will “strongly oppose” the decision.
The KSEB plans to generate 163MW of electricity by constructing a dam 5km above the Athirappilly waterfalls on the Chalakudy river in Thrissur. The proposal has faced many controversies and protests given that the project site falls in a region considered to be highly ecologically sensitive.
But the government is keen on making the project, which was conceptualised 41 years ago, a reality.
It has given the NoC for the technical, financial and environmental clearances needed for the project.
Electricity Minister M M Mani evaded questions on the non-objection certificate (NoC) issued for the proposal.
He said that there was opposition to the project within the state Cabinet and among people. He, however, did not elaborate on what the future course of action will be.
Mani had announced in the Assembly in 2018 that the government would not go ahead with the project.
The NoC is valid for seven years, the time that will be required to complete the project after obtaining the necessary permissions.
The Central Electricity Authority had said the project could not go ahead without the NoCs.
The validity of the earlier permissions obtained from the forest and environmental departments for the project expired in 2017.
Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala has demanded that the decision to build a dam on the Athirappilly falls should be withdrawn. He said the United Democratic Front (UDF) will strongly oppose the project. The decision to go ahead with it was a breach of people’s trust, he said.
Congress leader and former Union Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh has criticised the state government’s decision saying it was inviting a natural disaster.
The project cannot be approved without a discussion among the allies of the ruling front, CPI leader Binoy Viswam told Manorama News.
He said the permission for the project went against Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s declaration that development should not mean harming the environment and human beings.
He said such decisions should be taken only after they are discussed within the LDF. This project was discussed and dropped. There is something suspicious about the latest decision, he alleged.
AIYF, the youth wing of the CPI, has already come out in protest against the decision.