Renowned environmentalist Sunita Narain on Thursday flayed the CPI(M)-led LDF government’s decision to implement a hydro-power project at ecologically fragile Athirappilly in Thrissur district of Kerala. “I will not only say it is ecologically bad, but I think, economically also it is a very stupid project,” she told reporters at Kochi.
Narain, who was here to attend a book release, said she did not understand the logic behind the move to build an “expensive” hydro-power project downstream of the Chalakudy river, which originates from the Anamudi mountains in the Western Ghats.
“So little electricity with so much destruction of forests and biodiversity. I do not understand the logic behind the move to build an expensive project for such little electricity by destroying a beautiful forest there,” said Narain, who is the director general of New Delhi-based advocacy group Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).
“It is expensive…you will lose forests, you will have biodiversity loss,” she said.
In a written reply in the Assembly recently, Electricity Minister M M Mani had said the Kerala State Electricity Board had plans to implement 15 hydro-power projects, including the one in Athirappilly.
The 163-MW project, planned at the water resource bed of the Chalakudy river, was revived by the then LDF government headed by VS Achuthanandan.
Narain, who was a key member of the committee headed by K Kasturirangan which prepared a report on conservation of rich forests, wildlife and biodiversity in the Western Ghats, also expressed anguish over the delay in implementing the report.
“The Kasturirangan report had recommended separating the cultural landscape from the natural one in the Western Ghats. What is shocking is that so little of the natural landscape is left now,” she said.
Narain said the message the report had conveyed was that “you cannot lose anything of what you have now”. “If there is any dilution of it, any politics on the issue, it is unfortunate,” she said.
She alleged that the Centre was not taking steps to ensure the proper implementation of the report.
“What the Kasturirangan report says is, this is all that is left, accept it and protect the ghats. There was an anguished plea from the Kasturirangan committee,” she said.
She flayed the Central and state governments in the Western Ghats region for “only looking at the land outside the forests”.
“Instead of looking outside the forests, why don’t you protect the remaining forest area. The first thing the forest department should ensure is that no more land is destroyed.
“So, accept the Kasturirangan report, protect the forests that are left. I believe the politics of demarcating, not demarcating, notifying, not notifying is to delay and ensure that the remaining forests are also lost,” she alleged.
Narain was responding to queries on the Centre’s recent decision to extend the September 4, 2015 draft notification, recognising 56,825 sq.kms across six states as the Western Ghats Ecologically Sensitive Area.