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Athirappilly – It’s Time to Think and Act Wisely

athirapilly-waterfalls

The news of Kerala Govt’s plan to revive Athirappilly hydel power project has given rise to debates from all quarters for and against its viability. There’s absolutely no doubt about the fact that the state is facing acute power shortage, and that the govt is forced to look into all options to improve power production.

At this precarious juncture, it is rightful to look into various facets of the feasibility of the Athirappilly project, as it was mooted years ago, but ran into trouble and was kept in abeyance by the successive governments due to protest from various quarters. The situation is no different now. Will it be a wise move or a disastrous mistake to build a dam on one of Kerala’s most beautiful rivers, upstream from the Athirappilly waterfall, which is a picturesque tourist spot that attracts lakhs of foreign and domestic tourists?!
Let me state point blank my assessment of the project – it is going to be a disastrous step to build a dam! In my opinion it would be wise for the state to adopt alternative methods, like solar power projects, as has been successfully done in Cochin International Airport, for the following reasons:

First and foremost, dependence on hydro projects should be limited in the future as monsoon is getting weaker year after year. Certain studies done on the project show that the project would help generate only 26.7 MW of energy as against the proposed capacity of 163 MW. The power generation would be affected mainly due to the reduced flow in the river. It would reduce further during the dry summer season. The project could also mean losing the splendid view of the Athirappilly waterfall which attracts around 8-10 lakh local and international tourists every year. In fact, years back I had proposed to the govt about setting up a cable car across the waterfall and a safe walkway at the bottom of the falls to attract more tourists to enjoy the enviable scenic beauty. Whatever it be, no harm should to come to the waterfalls!

As per studies, the dam is expected to lead to the diversion of about 140 hectares of forest land, which is the habitat of the Asiatic elephant, the Great Indian Hornbill, Malabar Giant Squirrel, lion-tailed macaque and other species. An elephant corridor will be affected by the submergence of a large forest tract. Moreover, Tribal settlements in the project region would be submerged and the Tribal group would be displaced in the process. The govt can’t overlook the fact that eight settlements of Kadar Tribal community opposed the project on the basis of Community Forest Rights (CFR).

I think it time we think of other, simpler, less exploitative means of producing energy that will benefit all and won’t harm the environment. Certainly, infrastructure development is important, and sometimes compromises have to be made. However, time is also ripe for us to dream of a time when human development would include the protection of irreplaceable components like forests, rivers and biodiversity that sustain the richness of life on this planet.

Economically, too, I believe the investment needed to produce 163MW energy at the cost of destruction of ecology would be equivalent to producing the same amount of energy by setting up solar power projects. Moreover, I’m sure the final construction cost of the proposed dam will be double of the present estimate; whereas the cost of solar projects is reducing as technology improves.

Hope our responsible leaders will take a wise decision!

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7 Comments on "Athirappilly – It’s Time to Think and Act Wisely"


Guest
kunjan
1 year 8 months ago

Thanks for making it clear for the less informed. Was bit unsure about the claims from both camps. It’s good to hear from a neutral and well informed person. Only doubt left is why on earth Pinarayi is mooting for this?

Guest
Kaipallil Joseph Johnson
1 year 8 months ago

Since resistance from various sections of the Local Society of Kerala are mounting up, against the proposed Athirapally Hydro Electric Project ; chances are there that this Project also may have the fate of Silent Valley Project long back . But even today Keralites have not to learned much about the set backs happened for the State of Kerala; because of shelving the Silent Valley Project by then Prime Minister of India Mrs. Indira Gandhi in the beginning of 90 s. Those days the proposer of Silent valley Project M/s National Thermal Power Corporation ( N T P C ) came out along with the proposal, an additional Project to rehabilitate Lion Tailed Monkeys of Silent Valley ( rare specious of the world) to adjacent forest area; and included the additional cost as part of Project Cost.
Subsequently Kerala lost the name of a state having cheap power, and in the industrial belt of Kerala- Cochin several large scale industries were closed down due to abnormal increase in Power Tariff for Industries. The same can happen again. In the light of the past experience the State Govt. can think about rehabilitating the inhabitants of Athirapally to another area nearby, by building a an additional forest area with the help of Forest Department of Kerala and Kerala Forest Research Institute, Pee-chi. The additional cost for the same can be included in the Project cost for Athirapally. Another suggestion is that, instead of reducing the proposed 163 Mega Watt Capacity, the Project Planners can think of setting up Multistage Turbines in a limited forest area, so that the same water fall can be used for generation of electricity at different levels. Hope N T P C will be able to give more insight to K. S. E B officials, how to go ahead with the Project with out affecting the life of Forest Inhabitants !

Guest
Anonymous
1 year 8 months ago

It’s easy to invest money and construct a dam…but no manpower put together can create another Athirappilly.

Guest
Priyaraj
1 year 8 months ago

Righteous Decision from the Right Man!!

As one of the thousands of common people of Kerala me too are against harming nature for development. There will be hundreds of alternatives for creating energy. But please remember there is no technology no alternative for recreate an Eco-system, waterfall etc.

This summer season is a question for all of the keralites. We are facing the hottest summer this year. We had only a few forests and waterfalls left. Two three decades before we all had ponds, large trees, kavu etc with our houses. Now for our kids we need to show pictures of these things.

I kindly request authorities to rethink before act. If we destroy the nature, the process won’t be reversible.

Guest
Anonymous
1 year 8 months ago

we agree with you sir

Guest
Anonymous
1 year 8 months ago

I totally agree with you. Your idea of preserving th waterfalls with cable cart and a safe walk away will give a close look at this magnificent nature’s gift.

Guest
Anonymous
1 year 8 months ago

If the govt decides to go ahead with the hydel project, the so called agitation workers

 
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