Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Save Athirapally and Vazhachal waterfalls!

What it takes to make a magnificent waterfall a beautiful memory?

Nobody knows it better than the Kerala State government. Their proposed project to set up a 163 MW Hydel power project near the Athirapally waterfalls spending 675 million Indian Rupees is nothing short of doing exactly that. From day 1, since the project was announced it has been greeted by vehement protests from environmental activists, socially responsible engineers, local populace and social activists urging the State government to drop the plan and were lobbying for denial of permission of the project by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, Govt. of India.

Though the Union Ministry for Environment and Forests in a letter to the State Government on March 16 2001, had denied permission to the project as it would destroy 76.094 hectares of forest and 764.972 hectares of estate area in Nelliampathy, the efforts to secure permission went on.

Recently the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests on July 19, 2007 cleared the Kerala State Electricity Board's proposal to build a 163-mw dam on the Chalakudy river subject to certain conditions. Though the clearance has sparked protests from environmentalists and scientists, who say the ministry has sounded the death knell to a one-of its-kind riparian ecosystem in Kerala the state government is in no mood to reconsider the project.

We all know how conditions are met when it comes to implementing them. Protesters also fear it will affect 138.6 hectares of forestland, dry up the Athirapally waterfall and affect tribal families living in the area.

The project when implemented would also adversely affect 80 families belonging to the Kadar tribe. The bio-diversity of the area would be destroyed for ever. But what if 80 or 800 families are affected? What bio-diversity you're talking about? What we need is 163 MW hydro energy (experts say the project would generate 26.7 MW only).

In this context, I have some questions: Is Kayamkulam, thermal power plant working to its full capacity? How many of our present hydel projects are working to its optimum capacity? What about curbing transmission losses and proper upkeep of generation systems?

And what's cost of this Project? 675 crores. Don't get into the false belief that the project would be completed by just 675 crores. Earlier estimates were 400 crores. According to Sukumar Azhikkode, noted social activist, writer, educationist and thinker, it would cost atleast 1000 crores once the project gets underway. And I see no reason to disbelieve him. Our experience regarding other projects haven't proven otherwise.

Let our government spend just half of this amount, for the better upkeep of systems for generation of electricity, its distribution, implementation of rules and conditions regarding its usage etc. Let it be done.

Isn't electricity saved equal to electricity generated. If they could do at least this then its a great achievement itself. Down another five years what we going to face is, hike in electricity and water tariffs and, rationing.

What pains me, above all, is the extinction of two beautiful waterfalls, Athirapally and Vazhachal. I don't think that there isn't a single one amongst us who would not love retreats to nature; love spending some soothing, rejuvenating days in the lap of nature. If you don't belong to this thinking, then its okay. Never mind.

1 comment:

Nikhil Narayanan said...

I hope the Govt. understands the seriousness of the issue.
Hope we don't lose these places in the name of development.