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Home >News >India >Plan to revive power project at Baahubali falls poses ecological threat

ERNAKULAM : The scenic beauty of the pristine forest cover, dotted with the rugged rock formations, around the Athirapally waterfalls in central Kerala, captured in the blockbuster series Baahubali and later in Raavan, may be out of bounds for filmmakers henceforth. The state government moved earlier this week to revive work on a proposed power plant that could well be a loss to the film industry, which was drawn by one of the most awe-inspiring natural wonders down south.

The Kerala government has approached the Centre to extend the approval for the proposed state-run power project. But environmentalists said it may be the death knell for around 138 hectares of forest area, the size of 340 football fields, which is home to hundreds of endangered species and plants. The project will also have to encounter the battle of Kadars, one of the primitive tribes in India, who had secured a stay order from Kerala High Court against the project in 2015.

The proposed hydel power plant to generate 163-megawatt of electricity at the Athirapally falls has been in the works since 1979, but despite vehement opposition by locals, the project was given environmental clearance for 10 years by the Centre in 1998. Later the deadline was extended till 2008. However, former Union environment minister Jairam Ramesh had issued a stop memo in 2010, citing the protests. Since the latest clearance had expired in 2018, the Centre has asked if the state needs another extension and the state government answered in the affirmative. The news was first reported by regional daily Mathrubhumi on Wednesday.

Officials of the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB), the agency tasked to execute the project, confirmed to Mint that the state government gave it a no-objection certificate on 1 June to obtain the necessary clearances for the project from the Centre. This despite Kerala’s then power minister M.M. Mani assuring the state assembly in 2018 that the project will be discontinued. A senior KSEB official said the execution will be pending till a political consensus was reached with opposition parties and protesting environmentalists.

“KSEB asked the government whether we have to go with this particular project or not. They issued an NOC stating that we could ask for an extension of the clearance. It doesn’t mean that tomorrow you can implement Athirappally (power plant). It can be implemented only with the mutual consent of the ruling party and the opposition and all that. That will take another couple of years," said N.S. Pillai, chairman, KSEB.

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