Thiruvananthapuram: The state government gave the no-objection certificate (NoC) to the Athirappilly hydroelectric project despite ruling ally CPI's objection after Prime Minister Narendra Modi questioned about it in a review meeting.
The chief minister signed the file on April 8 despite there being no agreement in the ruling LDF.
The state government has said it gave the NoC because it didn’t want a confrontation with the Centre. However, it has not yet decided on implementing the project, it said.
The Athirappilly project came to the prime minister’s attention when he was doing a review of electricity proposals that were stuck in various states.
He asked the state why the project was not being implemented despite the environment ministry granting the permission three times and the Central Electricity Authority (CEA) approving it twice.
CEA officials then held discussions with the electricity board representatives. They were not satisfied when they were told that the lack of political consensus was the main obstacle to the project.
While the board officials tried to wriggle out by saying the central permission had expired, the CEA told them in August last year to get the NoC from the state government.
The CEA cannot be opposed since the state gets electricity from the central allocation also, the board told the government.
The state also took note of the fact that if it did not follow the direction, then there was the possibility of the state’s electricity plans not being recognised by the Centre.
May not be implemented
The Athirappilly project may not be implemented even if it gets central approval. The NoC issued by the chief minister is just a part of normal procedures, electricity minister M M Mani said.
“The NoC has been issued earlier too. It doesn’t mean we have decided to implement the project. We have only renewed the NoC. It will not be cancelled. We need new power projects,” he said.
Having obtained the state government’s NoC, the electricity board will now apply for centre’s permission. But given the strong opposition to the project, including from CPI, neither the LDF nor the state government has decided to go ahead with the project.
There is no possibility of this stance changing even if the Centre’s permission is obtained.
The process of applying for technical approval will take six months and the impact study for environmental clearance will take one-and-a-half years.
Others need not know about it: CM
Pinarayi has dismissed the criticism of ruling ally CPI for giving the NoC for the Athirappilly hydroelectric power project.
The government intended to implement the project but it dropped the plan due to growing opposition. That is the stance even now, he said.
The NoC for renewing central permissions is just a normal procedure. Except for the departments concerned, others need not have to know about it, he said.
M M Mani, has made it clear that discussions will be held with all concerned if the project is to be started, the chief minister said.
Not on Left Front agenda: Kanam
The Athirappilly project is not on the agenda of the Left Front, CPI state secretary Kanam Rajendran said.
When it was pointed out that minister M M Mani had said that he would hold discussions with CPI to come to an agreement, Kanam said, “Desires cannot be reined in.”