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Fears on Athirappilly EIA proved true, says Viswom

K.S. Sudhi

Gadgil's statement that 70% of the report is bogus



Nature's bounty:The Athirappilly waterfalls and natural riparian forest vegetation.

KOCHI: The fears that the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) of the Athirappilly hydel power project was not properly carried out have been confirmed by the statements of Madhav Gadgil, chairman of the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP), Benoy Viswom, Minister for Forest, has said.

There had been complaints that the EIA was done without giving opportunity for all the stakeholders to raise their concerns. The government has taken a serious view of the statement of the ecologist and is waiting for the final report of the panel, he said.

Mr. Gadgil, while addressing a public meeting in Thiruvananthapuram on Sunday, had stated that about 70 per cent information in the EIA report of the Athirappilly hydel power project was bogus. “The data are manipulated. The amount of bogus information in the report is remarkable,” Mr. Gadgil had said.

The panel led by the eminent ecologist had visited the site of the proposed project on Saturday and took the views of stakeholders including the tribals of the region, the Kerala State Electricity Board, the Kerala Forest Research Institute and the Forest Department.

The panel, appointed by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, was asked to look into and give recommendations on various projects in the Western Ghats such as the hydroelectric projects in Gundiya in Karnataka and Athirappilly in Kerala and the overall development projects in Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg districts of Maharashtra.

Mr. Gadgil had stated that the proposed Athirappilly project could not be approved until the Forest Rights Act (FRA) was implemented in its true spirit for the Kadar tribal community of the area.

Tribes' rights

According to Mr. Gadgil, a preliminary inquiry with the members of the Kadar tribes showed that the community rights of the tribes were not yet recognised. He had also stated that though forest rights committees were formed, they were not functioning properly. No comprehensive study had been carried out so far on the natural riparian forest vegetation along the Western Ghats, he said.

Responding to the criticism, Mr. Viswom said that Kerala was one of the States which was expected to implement the FRA in its letter and spirit. Kerala should be a model for other States in the country in this regard. No development project could be implemented without enforcing the Act and enforcing the community rights as it was mandatory on the part of the government to implement it, he said.

The charge that there had been lapses in the implementation of the Act would be viewed seriously. Agencies like the Revenue, the Tribal Welfare and the Forest Departments had worked in tandem for the implementation of the Act. The State had strived to implement the Act in its true sense, he said.

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