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The Anakkayam Small Hydro Electric Project, Kerala will Wreak Havoc, Wild Animals and Adivasis to Lose their Homes

Dr. Lakshmi Unnithan
Dr. Lakshmi Unnithan

The government system works as if they aren’t even trying to get better. With the pandemic delivering ongoing uncertainty, and climate change bringing ever more floods and droughts, it is imperative we take action to ensure we overcome challenging events.  The development dreamers are becoming giants who are greedily approaching without learning the lessons despite the constant setbacks of nature. Gadgil’s theories and Kasturirangans voice and learnings of Sastra Sahitya Parishad does not come in the deaf ears of the Ruling Government in Kerala.  

This November we hear attempts are being made to clear 20 acres of dense forests in the Vazhachal Forest Division under the Anakkayam Hydropower Project. The government has already ordered the felling of 1897 trees and more small trees with a circumference of up to 740 cm. The Anakkayam Small Hydroelectric Project aims to generate electricity by diverting water from the Sholayar Hydroelectric Project Powerhouse through a tunnel and turbine. The Electricity Board has said that the project will cost Rs 150 crore in 2018. Extremely dense forests are being cleared for the project. Of this, 15 acres are in the buffer zone of the Parambikulam Tiger Reserve. Elephants and other species of animals, including elephants and tigers, are endemic to the area.

There had already   been a major landslide during the 2018 floods near the project area. The adivasis of Anakkayam village, who lost their homes at that time, have not yet been rehabilitated. The government has decided not to even build houses in areas prone to landslides and landslides. Attempts are being made to erode the rock by blasting along the length of 5 Km and we are sure that this will further weaken the area and create the possibility of new landslides. Aren’t we increasing the risk to these areas by blasting the rocks and digging tunnels and to add to the misery the project is being implemented in violation of the Forest Rights Act. This scheme has also not gained the permission from the tribal communities. Such schemes can be implemented in the CFR region only with the permission of the tribal communities.

Here we understand the goal is not to solve the power shortage and we are quite sure that this will not be able to pay even one-thousandth of 2600 crore rupees of electricity annually. Moreover, even the central share, which is cheaper, is often not fully utilized as the state has more power than it needs. However, the surplus power is being sold to other states. All the thermal power plants in Kerala have been shut down. 

While hydro projects cost an average of Rs 9 to 10 crore per megawatt, here 7.5 megawatts would cost Rs 150 crore! That is Rs 20 crore per 1 megawatt. 

Due to the high project cost, the cost of electricity from here will be at least Rs 10 per unit. The Kayamkulam thermal power plant, which can generate about 200 crore units of electricity per year, has been shut down due to the fact that it will cost around Rs 7 lakh per unit.So aren’t we confused what our ultimate motive is. 

The District President Waxerin Perepadan has also been reiterating all these facts and he was speaking after inaugurating the state-level online meeting of the Tribal Resources Enlightenment Ecology Society (TRIES), which focuses on tribal-environmental protection. 

"The project, which is expected to cover a distance of five and a half kilometers with a diameter of three and a half meters, will result in massive logging and destruction of habitats in the tribal areas, which will lead to wildlife encroachment and massive damage to crops in the hilly areas and floods," Perapadan said. 

According to the Forest Rights Protection Act, the power department has to go ahead with the project after getting the approval of all the nine tribal communities in the area. But the board is moving ahead with the action after the law was blown to smithereens.

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