Power minister Kadakampally Surendran, in an apparent demonstration of the LDF government’s intent to give a big push to stagnant domestic generation, has spoken about the need to revive controversial ‘still on paper’ projects like the 163-MW Athirappilly Hydel Project and the 1,200-MW gas-based Cheemeni Project. He has the strong backing of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, but has created the first cracks in the united façade of the LDF.
The CPI had vehemently objected to what its state secretary Kanam Rajendran said was the minister’s arbitrary announcement about Athirappilly. Agriculture minister V.S. Sunil Kumar said that the CPI had always opposed and would continue to oppose the Athirappilly project.
The power minister said that the project, proposed on the Chalakkudy River in Vazhachal, was necessary for the growth of the state. Mr Surendran, however, acknowledged that there were environmental concerns. “We want the project to go ahead in the interests of the state’s development, but at the same time it should not harm the environment,” Mr Surendran said. The Chief Minister was less diplomatic, and virtually trivialised opposing voices.
“The project had received nod when I was holding the power portfolio. It were not environmental concerns, but sheer politics that prompted some people to move the court and get the project stalled,” the Chief Minister said. He also said that the project could be implemented without affecting the flow of the water and the waterfall.
The last technical hurdle before the Athirappilly project was removed by the MoEF in October, 2015. It withdrew a notice issued in 2010, during the tenure of Jairam Ramesh, seeking why the environment clearance (EC) granted for the project in 2007 should not be revoked.
The KSEB plans to begin work on the Athirappilly project before July 18, 2017, the time till the environment clearance (EC) is valid. Five years ago, the cost for the project was fixed at Rs 570 crore.
The power minister also talked about the need to develop the Cheemeni project in Kasargod with people’s participation. “We should think about developing the project as a township,” Mr Surendran said. The Chief Minister’s meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on May 28 has given a new urgency to the Cheemeni project, which intends to leverage GAIL’s gas pipeline network.
During the tete-a-tete, the Prime Minister had specifically asked the Chief Minister to speed up the Kerala stretch of GAIL pipeline or get left out of the National Gas Grid.