Thiruvananthapuram: The proposed Athirapally power project has remained a contentious issue for over two decades, irrespective of which of the rival fronts is ruling Kerala. Now the project has become a topic of discussion again after the Pinarayi Vijayan government gave the green signal to the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) for the project.
The state government has given the necessary no objection certificate (NOC) to the KSEB for this project.
Coming out strongly against this, Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala on Wednesday said that the Chief Minister was trying to rush through the project using Covid-19 as a cover.
"In the present Kerala Assembly, State Electricity Minister M. M. Mani had categorically said that this project has been shelved. When things are like this, how come suddenly this has again surfaced. The Congress-led UDF will oppose this tooth and nail and will go to any extent to prevent this from moving forward," said Chennithala.
Former State Forest and Environment Minister and presently CPI Rajya Sabha MP, Binoy Viswan said "This particular project will do no good for Kerala in any aspect. Previous government's here have set aside this project, and therefore, all are surprised to hear the news on this. The ruling Left Democratic Front had ruled out this project earlier, and now I do not know who are behind this project and how this has surfaced again."
Former Union Minister for Environment and Forests and senior Congress lawmaker Jairam Ramesh, who all along has opposed this project tweeted, "After the devastating floods of 2018, I would have thought that the Kerala government would have got some environmental sense, but obviously contractor lobby is powerful and this should not be allowed to happen."
This project has time and again been shot down following protests by green activists as this is planned on the Chalakudy river (Thrissur district) and requires more than 100 hectares of forest land which is home to tigers, leopards, Great Indian Hornbill, Nilgiri langur, lion-tailed macaque and the rare Cochin forest cane turtle.
In the ruling LDF government, the CPI has always been against this project.
The Kerala State Electricity Board had prepared a plan for a 163 megawatt hydroelectric project at Athirapally.
Incidentally, this project when first mooted by Pinarayi Vijayan was shot down by the then LDF government when he was the Power Minister in the cabinet of E. K. Nayanar (1996-2001). Now this project has surfaced again when Vijayan is the Chief Minister.