NEW DELHI: After denying clearance to the much-awaited Athirappilly hydro-electric project, Union Environment and Forest Minister Jairam Ramesh has extended some consolation to Kerala. He has written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh requesting him to compensate the state for its “loss”.
Taking up the matter with the Prime Minister, Jairam Ramesh has said that the state must be compensated either monetarily or by allotting more power from the Central pool.
“When states are denied such projects on larger and long-term environmental considerations, they are entitled to some sort of green bonus,” he has said in the letter.
According to the Minister, he had promised Chief Minister Oommen Chandy that the matter would be taken up with the PM. However, he has reiterated his opposition to the Athirappilly project in the letter. “There is clear evidence that the project would be ecologically devastating and would destroy rich and valuable biodiversity. Having seen the project site myself, I am more than convinced that the project should not be implemented,” he has said.
He also adds that there are differences of opinion amid the political parties in Kerala about the project.
It was in 1998 that the 163 MW project planned at the water resource bed of the Chalakudy river got the first clearance from the Central Government. But soon after, a legal battle with environmentalists ensued and the project went into a limbo.
It was revived by the previous LDF Government and in 2005, following a fresh environment impact study, got clearance again.
But soon the Kerala High Court intervened and asked the Kerala State Electricity Board for a fresh clearance, which it got in 2007, only to be asked by the Central Government early this year why the clearance should not be revoked.
The issue had turned into a political battle with Electricity Minister A K Balan alleging that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s principal secretary T K A Nair was trying to block the project so that the LDF Government should not get the credit.
The present UDF Government has also been pressing for its clearance after it came to power last month.