Pooyamkutti: assaulting the Ghats

  • 14/05/1996

The Pooyamkutti hydel power project in Kerala's Idukki district cleared by Kamal Nath, is another hotbed of controversy. Conceived by the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) decades ago, the project was to produce 700 MW of power by building series of dams on the PooyamKutti river. A KSEB report had stated that the project will not have any effect on the environment and that there were no endangered, species in the area. However, environmentalists have waged a struggle against the project saying that it will destroy more than 3,OGO ha of natural forests in Palghat area of the Western Ghats. The Kerala Forest Research institute had suggested abandoning the project, . calculating its environmental loss at a conservative Rs 3,334.65 crore.

The main supporter of the project is the CITU-Ied Kerala Electricity Board Union, besides all the political parties in the state. Environmentalists, however, believe that mini hydel projects should be built as alternative sources of power generation. They also point to the importance of Pooyamkutti forests from the point of view of livelihood they provide to thousands. Pooyarl reed-based industry employs about three lakh people. for whom there are no contingency plans.

The Kerala Shashtra Sahitya Parishad's (KSSP) stand on Pooyamkuttil has put it in the limelight. While activists state that the organisation is opposed to all phases of the project, its CPI-M supporters are of the view that the first phase should be built, and the rest opposed. This has opened KSSP to charges of dilution of its stand.