Last update:
2018-04-07

Athirapally dam, Kerala, India

Resistance for ten years to the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) proposal for the Athirapally 163 MW hydroelectric project on the 144 km heavily dammed Chalakudy River


Description:

The Kerala State Electricity Board proposed to build a 163 MW hydropower project at the Athirapally water falls on the Chalakudy River, Kerala. The Union Ministry of Environment and Forest sanctioned clearance for this proposed project on July 19, 2007 but environmentalists have been against this project because it will result in enormous destruction of the riparian ecosystem. The proposed dam will affect 138 ha of forestland and livelihood of tribal families depending on the forest and river. Also a stretch of 28.5 hectares of riparian forest falls under the submergence area while it will reduce or dry up the water-flow of Athirapally waterfall which preserves the ecology and attracts tourism in this area. Before construction of any dam on the river its impact assessment/analysis should be done in a scientific way otherwise it will pose threat to present ecology as well as economy. Prior to clearance it is mandatory to conduct public hearing as well as EIA study but NGOs are claiming that there wasn’t any EIA study or public hearing for this project.(1) . In 1998, the Athirapally hydro-power project had got clearance from Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) without public hearing . So  in October 2001, Kerala high Court directed Kerala State Electricity Board and MoEF to follow all procedures for Environment Clearances. Public hearing was held in February 2002, in which it was seen that local communities and environmentalists are against the project. But on the basis of a report prepared by EIA agency -Water and Power Consultancy Services (India) Ltd., MoEF sanctioned clearance to the project in February 2005. In March 2006, Kerala High Court cancelled the clearance and directed to reorganize public hearing. The court ordered the authority to publish the report and public hearing details. On directives of court public hearing were held on 15 June 2012. The Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP),led by Madhav  Gadgil, constituted by Union Ministry of Environment and Forests to suggest conservation measures for Western Ghats rejected this proposal. The sub-committee of the Experts Appraisal Committee for River valley and hydroelectricity project visited the proposed Athirapally dam site in April 2007 which concluded that the main income source of people living in Athirapally was tourism.(1)

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Athirapally dam, Kerala, India
Country:India
State or province:Kerala
Location of conflict:Chalakudy Taluk, Thrissur
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Water Management
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Dams and water distribution conflicts
Specific commodities:Electricity
Water
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Athirappally falls is situated 70 km from Kochi city in Kerala's Thrissur district. The 80 ft high falls is a part of the Chalakudy River and originates in the upper reaches of the Sholayar ranges in the Western Ghats. Lush greenery and little streams that cover the winding route up and down to the falls exhilarate and intimidate all at once. The region is home to many endangered species of animals such as the Asiatic elephant, tiger, leopard, bison and sambhar. Four species of hornbill are only seen here in the Western Ghats. It also has one of the highest levels of fish diversity with 85 different species of fresh water fish. Sadly, this melting pot of biodiversity is now under threat.(3)

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Project area:160
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:2000
Start of the conflict:2007
Company names or state enterprises:Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) from India
Relevant government actors:Kerala High Court
Kerala Chief Minister
Minister of Environment and Forests (MoEF)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:-Kerala Sasthra Sahitya Parishad
-Calakudy Puzha Samrakshana Samiti
- Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (Madhav Gadgil)
- Tribal panchayat (Kadars group)
- Left Democratic Manifesto
- River Research Centre
Conflict and Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Women
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Recreational users
Local scientists/professionals
Kadars, a tribal group of the area // River Research Centre (with Latha Anantha)
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Impacts of the project
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Outcome
Project StatusPlanned (decision to go ahead eg EIA undertaken, etc)
Conflict outcome / response:Court decision (undecided)
Strengthening of participation
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Project temporarily suspended
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Yes
Briefly explain:The dam is not yet to be built, final decision has been announced several times. In 2018 it i still an open question, probably the dam will not be built.
Sources and Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Madhav Gadgil's report, Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP)
[click to view]

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

(3) Furore again over Athirapally project in Kerala, The Hindu, Mini Muringatheri THRISSUR, AUGUST 11, 2017
[click to view]

Athirapilly falls under threat. Amita Bhaduri. Sat, 2013-11-23
[click to view]

(2) Reported in The Hindu, 4 March 2017 by K S Sudhi.
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

In memory of Latha Anantha, in Down to Earth, 16 Nov 2017
[click to view]

(1) January 1, 2014, compiled by Pallavi Patil, http://seriecotech.com/blog/?p=837
[click to view]

Other documents

[click to view]

[click to view]

[click to view]

Other comments:"If Chalakudy river basin and Athirapally waterfall still remain more or less intact, it is no doubt due to the decade-long green battle of Dr Latha Anantha. Former environment minister Jairam Ramesh who cancelled the eco-clearance of the hydel project said it was Latha's research papers which made him understand the significance of the region. Latha left us after battling cancer for almost a year and a half. If Sugathakumari pioneered the Silent Valley agitation into the popular imagination in the '60s, Latha's work is contemporary and very relevant ..." (Times of India, 26 Nov 2017, Anjana Georgei).
Meta information
Contributor:JMA
Last update07/04/2018
Comments
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