The Athirappilly hydro-power project in Kerala has resurfaced again as a matter of contention for environmentalists and political leaders. Pinarayi Vijayan government issued an order on June 4, which extends No-Objection Certificate (NOC) to the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) for a period of seven years and has permitted to proceed with the project’s implementation.
Athirappilly Hydro Electric Project (AHEP) is a 163 MW project proposed by KSEB, which was to construct a dam of 23 metre height with a storage capacity of 8.44 MCM on the Chalakkudy river in the Vazhachal forest division of Thrissur district. The proposed AHEP is located downstream of Sholayar and Poringalkuthu projects. The project was in limbo for several years owing to widespread flaks from many quarters.
Talking over phone social activist Medha Patkar told that Athirappally has a serious impact on the environment. “Ignoring the environmental destruction and impacts before the World is a serious mistake. It is unfortunate that immediately after lockdown the projects like Athirappally in Kerala and Bodhghat dam in Chhattisgarh are pushed without considering the riverine population,” She said.
Medha Patkar also added that the flooding in Chalakkudy river had already shown that damming needs to be very carefully reviewed in Kerala. “I think the decision should not be hurriedly pushed after so many years and it should be reviewed with the participation of people, people’s organisation and experts in Kerala,” she opined.
P.T. Thomas, senior Congress leader and Thrikkakara MLA who is also a strong proponent of Gadgil report told me over phone that the government should not provide go-ahead to implement Athirappilly project. “Dr. Madhav Gadgil had already mentioned in his report that Athirappilly project should not be implemented. A world known tourist spot will be vanished and even the projects there now are not getting enough water, then how will a new project could be accommodated there? It is a way to corruption and Pinarayi government is tolling a death knell for environmental conservation,” P.T. Thomas added.