Construction of an electricity transmission line is facing stiff opposition over its overhead alignment on two acres of man-made green space in Kottuvally panchayat of Ernakulam rural district in Kerala.
The green spot — Santhivanam — is a private property owned by Meena Menon, and comprises three sarpa kavus (a natural sacred space of trees found near traditional Hindu houses in Kerala), three ponds, and a family-owned temple. It has been maintained by her family over generations, said Menon, who lives nearby with her 14-year-old daughter.
Menon, a tuition teacher, has been fighting against the Kerala State Electricity Board’s (KSEB) proposed 110-KV transmission line, which passes through Santhivanam, for the last six years. The area became a rallying point for environmentalists last month when KSEB started constructing a transmission tower on Menon’s property.
While Menon maintains that a power transmission tower will “slowly lead to decay of this mini-forest”, KSEB officials point out that this is a critical line, meant to address severe shortage in electricity voltage in villages of Cherai, Munambam, Pallippuram and Edavanakkadu.
A KSEB official said, “The present alignment was accepted by court, and KSEB will go ahead with the construction. As per an earlier survey, 48 trees had to be cut down at Santhivanam. But after the Board decided to increase the tower’s height to minimise the damage to Meena Menon’s land, only three trees have to be cut down. Five other trees will be trimmed at a height of 13.5 meters.”
The official said steps will be taken to remove soil slurry generated during foundation work.
Another official said the KSEB has opted to build a narrow foundation for the tower to minimise land use. “Normally, three cents of land are used for the foundation of such towers. In Santhivanam, we have reduced this to 0.62 cents.’’
Menon, who refuted KSEB’s claim that she was not willing to shift the alignment, said: “I learnt that the power line would pass through my land only after officials earmarked the route. I maintain this land out of public interest. It is meant for future generations. Santhivanam is frequently visited by students, conservationists and bird watchers.”
Asking whether the government is “doing justice” by building the transmission tower on the green patch, she said, “There are several other viable routes for the power line.”
A KSEB official said the protest is over this single tower.
Any change in the alignment will affect nearly 30 houses, a move which will certainly spark more protests, the official said. “Normally, ground clearance for the lowest rung of power line is 11 m. On Menon’s land, we have increased it to 22 m to protect the green patch,” the KSEB official said.
In 2013, Menon had filed a petition in the High Court against construction of the transmission tower on her land. The court appointed an advocate’s commission to look into the issue. Subsequently, the additional district magistrate held several rounds of hearings. The court-appointed commission and the ADM backed the alignment of the KSEB.
N K Gopi, convener of a defunct action council that had fought unsuccessfully against the entire 7-km power line and construction of the remaining, around 30 towers, said Menon is unlikely to win in her struggle. The power project was concieved two decades ago.