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Centre reiterates its stand on Athirappilly

J. Balaji

Project detrimental to Kerala's ecology: Jairam Ramesh



Jairam Ramesh says Athirappilly is another Silent Valley.

NEW DELHI: Union Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh on Saturday made it clear that the Kerala government's proposed Rs.675-crore 163-MW Athirappilly hydroelectric power project in Thrissur district would be detrimental to the State's ecology and the Centre was not in a position to review its stand not to clear it.

“Anything detrimental to Kerala's ecology will be detrimental to the country's ecology as well. I asked Kerala not to press for the project,” Mr. Ramesh told The Hindu after meeting Kerala Electricity Minister A.K. Balan who wanted the Centre to reconsider its decision.

State told to wait

However, Kerala had been requested to wait for the report of the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Committee headed by Prof. Madhav Gadgil. He said the report might be given in a couple of months. Athirappilly was another Silent Valley, rich in biodiversity, which needed to be protected, he said.

The Gadgil committee is studying the biodiversity in the Western Ghats and will take up the Athirappilly project too. The study is being made with the help of researchers from the Kerala Forest Research Institute and the Tropical Botanical Garden and Research Institute (TBGRI). The Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) had proposed a power project at Athirappilly waterfalls and the move had invited protests from environmentalists.

The hydel project is planned 35 km east of Chalakudy town, across the Chalakudy river, along the Chalakudy-Anamalai inter-State highway in the Vazhachal forest division of Thrissur district.

The project got the first clearance from the Central government in 1998, which was challenged legally by environmentalists. In 2005, after a fresh environment impact study, it was cleared again. The Kerala High Court intervened and asked the KSEB for a fresh clearance, which it got for a third time in 2007.

Balan disappointed

Mr. Balan expressed his disappointment on the Centre's insistence on not reviewing its earlier decision.

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