//People reject Athirappilly HEP once again at Public Hearing

People reject Athirappilly HEP once again at Public Hearing

More than 1000 people gathered at the Gopalakrishna Auditorium, Chalakudy on  the 15th June 2006, Thursday to record their strongest ever opposition to the  proposed 163 MW Athirappilly HEP. The Hearing, which started at 11. a.m.  continued upto 5 p.m.

 The Public Hearing was declared by the Kerala State Pollution Control Board  based on the High Court Judgment of 23rd March 2006 that had quashed the  Environmental Clearance granted to the project in 2005 based on an EIA by  WAPCOS. Further the High Court had ordered the Kerala State Electricity  Board, the project proponent to hold a public hearing and seek people's  opinion on the project before applying for a fresh clearance.

 Altogether, around 70 people presented their views including the  presentation of the merits of the project by the KSEB official. Except for  the KSEB official and the all the other representations vehemently opposed  the project from different angles. The Chalakudy MLA was not allowed to  complete his speech by the emotionally charged people.

Meanwhile, the  downstream  MLA from Mala Constituency, Sri. A.K.Chandran demanded that the project  proposal be abandoned due to the drinking and irrigation problems it would  create in downstream areas. Sri. Jose Thettayil, the Angamaly constituency  MLA also expressed reservations about the project.   The panel, led by the Kerala State Pollution Control Board Member Secretary  first invited the petitioners, Geetha from the Vazhachal tribal settlement,  then President of Athirappilly Grama Panchayath and C.G.Madhusoodhanan, Civil engineer to submit their views in front of the panel.

People from  different parts of the river basin who expressed their views both written  and oral included, representatives of *Kada *tribals, canal beneficiaries,  Vana Samrakshana Samithi members, shopkeepers in tourism zone, hotel and  restaurant owners associations, merchants associations, drinking water  scheme beneficiaries, local, state and national level NGOs, farmers, school  and college students, experts and researchers working in the field of  environment, EIA procedures, fisheries, reptiles, hornbills, Western Ghats,  dams etc.

Representations of prominent people includes Medha Patkar, Dr.  V.S.Vijayan (Ex- Director of SACON), Dr. Sathis Chandran Nair, Ashish  Kothari (Kalpavriksh, Pune), Dr. S. Sankar (KFRI), Himanshu Thakkar  (SANDRP), Dilnavaz .S. Variava (National Wild Life Board) Drs Divya Mudappa  
and T.R. Shankar Raman (Nature Conservation Foundation), Debi Goenka (Conservation Action Trust) etc. Prominent social activists from Kerala like  Prof. M.N.Vijayan, Dr. Sukumar Azhikode and poets Sugathakumari teacher and  Vishnu Narayanan Namboothiri also sent their submissions opposing the  project.  
 
A glimpse into some of the important points raised in the representations  include,  

   1. The EIA study carried out by WAPCOS is not comprehensive or    participatory and has excluded the actual impact on the environment, the     project affected people and the different needs of downstream panchayaths.   

  2. The new EIA has not addressed any of the apprehensions raised by    the public at the 2002 Public Hearing.   

3. The Irrigation Department and Forest Department were not approached     or consulted before conduct of EIA by the KSEB or the WAPCOS (both the  departments have produced letters in front of the PH panel testifying the same)    

4. The consistent violation of the MoEF Guidelines by the KSEB itself     warrants rejection of further clearance to the project.  
   5. There has been fudging of data on the hydrology of the river,    extent of displacement, cost estimate for the project, benefits projected     etc.  
   6. The KSEB has not invited either the local bodies or the River  Protection Forum and people in the river basin so far for an open discussion  on the project inspite of the consistent opposition.

    7. The impact on the drinking and irrigation needs in downstream areas  if the dam is operated as a peak load station will be severe due to alternate flooding (2-3 hours in the evening hours from6-8 p.m) and  drying up of the river.    

8. The project has to be abandoned for the sake of the future     generation. They also have the right to see a flowing river and waterfalls.     9. The submergence of elephant corridor will result in elephants and   other wild animals crossing the reserve forest boundaries and entering human     settlements in nearby villages leading to man- wild life conflicts.   

  10. There is no reference to the ecological uniqueness of the area in   the EIA with respect to endemism of all four species of hornbills, endemism  of cane turtle, Project Elephant area (Reserve No.9) and   recommendation for fish sanctuary by NBFGR etc.    

11. Rather than the extent of forest area to be diverted for the dam,   the high conservation value of the Vazhachal Reserve forests (75%)   especially the 'riparian forests' connecting the 'high' and 'low elevation'   forests in the region is more important, second only to Mankulam RF in   Kerala Western Ghats.

 We are waiting for a positive peoples' panel report that has considered all  the points raised by the people.   We will keep you updated. Thank you for the consistent support extended to  us.  
 
Warm regards,  
 
S.P. Ravi/ A.Latha/ S.Unnikrishnan/ Janaki from Athirappilly and all others,  
 
Anivar Aravind  
Global Alternate Information Applications(GAIA)  
P.O.Peringavu, Thrissur-18

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