INDIA - SILENT VALLEY RAINFOREST UNDER THREAT ONCE MORE
"We were forced to get involved in yet another dam issue threatening Silent Valley once again. I am attaching a note Sathis prepared to submit in a public hearing the Electricity Board had organised to get environmental clearance for this disastrous project. We may have to start the old Save Silent Valley campaign once again after 25 years. I shall let you know. You may have to help in bringing international rainforest conservation pressure once again. The change in the Central Govt. is hopefully for the good environmentally. It was afterall Indira Gandhi who politically saved the valley and Rajiv Gandhi who inaugurated the National Park."
From: Dr.S.Sathis Chandran Nair 20th May 2004
Thiruvananthapuram 695 010
A Note on the Ecological Impact of the Proposed Pathrakkadavu Hydro-Electric Project (PHEP) in the Kunthi River, Palakkad District of Kerala
This proposed river impoundment is ecologically unacceptable for three reasons and hence should be opposed.
The first and the foremost reason is that it poses a major threat to the long-term viability of the existing Silent Valley National Park.
The Silent Valley National Park was established in 1984 after abandoning the earlier planned Silent Valley Hydro-Electric Project (SVHEP) across the Kunthi River immediately upstream of the currently proposed Pathrakkadavu Project. The National Park was set up to protect the unique ecology and biodiversity of the Silent Valley Reserved Forest and it was convincingly established that the dam will cause irreparable damage. Although in the late 1970s and early 1980s the biodiversity value of Silent Valley was hotly contested by the proponents of the dam, even with very incomplete data it was shown that the area harbours an unparalleled wealth of plants and animals. Since then more data had accumulated to reinforce this stance. Hence the rationale applied to reject the old SVHEP is applicable to the current PHEP also.
Even collecting basic data and establishing the biodiversity value of any rainforest site is a tedious task requiring decades of consistent team effort by experts from various disciplines of biology. It is a not a question of visiting a location and preparing a checklist of plants and large animals. Unfortunately the very designing of EIA studies does not take into account the inadequacy of available basic information on our biodiversity. The terrainal and ecosystem complexity in evergreen forest situations as occurring in Kerala Western Ghats makes it extremely difficult to assess the impact of large permanent interventions such as dams on the dynamic bio-physical systems.
The value of the Silent Valley forests has only increased since 1984. This is partly because humankind has now scientifically a much better understanding of the value of biodiversity. It is also because many potential areas have been destroyed since then and whatever remains has become even more valuable. In spite of our best scientific efforts even now we are not sure how past human deeds continue to adversely impinge upon the remaining natural ecosystems. There seems to be a cascading effect of ecodegrdation. Hence assuring the long-term conservation of Silent Valley ecosystem has greater importance than any projected power generation or other benefits from development projects proposed in the area which could pose a threat to the biodiversity. The biodiversity value of Silent Valley simply does not mean the value of forests in the 89 sq.km. National Park alone excluding the contiguous areas. Merely safeguarding the administrative boundary of the National Park does not guarantee the long-term protection of the ecosystems or the species diversity contained there in. The notified National Park encompasses a Reserved Forest area, an artificial administrative unit, identified for legal land ownership reasons in 1914. The actual biodiversity rich natural landscape unit is larger than the Reserved Forest, a contiguous forest tract along the south-western slopes of Nilgiris. This is a segment of the Western Ghats extending across many ridges and valleys including the valley of Kunthi and the plateau, a part of which alone is included within the notified Reserved Forest. The ecosystems and the habitats of the species extend beyond the National Park boundary.
Protection of biodiversity for its long-term viability demands preserving the largest possible natural habitat unit. In this case this includes Silent Valley at its hub. Protecting it is ensured by safeguarding an adequately deep buffer zone all around to absorb permeating degradative influences from outside. After the notification of the National Park in 1984, the boundary of the Protected Area should have been rationalised to include the actual boundary of the forest ecosystem going beyond the Reserved Forest boundary. This is essential even for the physical protection of the area. The natural boundary is the outer base of the plateau. Possibly because legal complications involving the Vested Forest, the State Forest Department did not attempt this.
The proposed PHEP is located such that its implementation will totally severe the most constricted part of the buffer. Human intrusion and conversion of forests into agricultural land everywhere follow main watercourses and along the Kunthi River also this has happened. Outside the Reserved Forest only the gorge part of the river valley which is hardly 2 or 3 km. wide remain unoccupied and the proposed project is to be located exactly within this strip. Although requirement of forest land is minimum and inundation of forests very little, the proposed Pathrakkadavu Hydro-Electric Project poses a very serious threat to the National Park by occupying a most vulnerable and already attenuated flank of the Park.
Due to terrainal and climatic reasons, the eastern and northern parts of the Silent Valley Reserved Forest is stunted evergreen forests covering the very steep Nilgiri slopes. In the less undulating southern and western edges at lower elevations there are more diverse ecosystems. A host of endangered large mammals including the Lion Tailed Macaque, Nilgiri Tahr and most of the rainforest herbivores and carnivores are available in these parts. Most of the endemic and rare plants located in recent times from Silent Valley are also occurring in this area. Hence the location of the proposed PHEP poses a major threat to the identified wild biodiversity of the Park.
Silent Valley National Park is an approximately rectangular plateau located along the south-west corner of the Nilgiris. The area is drained towards the west through Kunthi which joins Thutha Puzha which in turn flows into Bharatha Puzha. Along the narrow east west axis, the Silent Valley plateau is 7 – 8 km. broad (aerial distance) and along the longer north south axis it is about 12 km. long. The river valley bottom is approximately 1000 metres above mean sea level. Along the west and south, the edge of the plateau rises up to 1200m with a few individual peaks higher than 1300m. The north-western edge rapidly rises to 1900m and the National Park boundary corresponding with the watershed line swings east and merges with the Nilgiri crestline. The eastern boundary of the Silent Valley plateau is higher and a very steep ridge of more than 1600m elevation separates the Kunthi Valley from the immediately adjacent east draining Bhavani Valley. This ridge is also the main east west divide of the Western Ghat crestline. At its northern end in the Nilgiris it is more than 2300m. in elevation. Along the mid southern border of the Silent Valley plateau Kunthi descends from the 1000m elevation within the Park to less than 100m elevation through a very narrow gorge approximately shaped like an ‘Z’. The old Silent Valley dam site was at the apex (northern end) of the Z while the present proposal at Pathrakkadavu is at the lowest (southern) end.
Rainforest biodiversity is highest in the lower elevation forests, particularly with deeper richer soils and the diversity thins out, as the terrain becomes steeper. A complex inter-digitating mosaic of ecosystems will have the highest biodiversity. Riparian forests, swamps, natural grasslands, overhanging cliffs occurring along the southern and western part of the Silent Valley plateau along with the main river valley have higher biodiversity in comparison with the northern parts. But unfortunately it is these lower reaches of the plateau that have been disturbed prior to the notification of the National Park. The old SVHEP was abandoned specifically because it would have submerged 830 ha. of the lower river valley forests. Similarly the PHEP is now threatening the complex habitat mosaic along its southern edge.
The forests of Silent Valley was part of a much larger swathe of forests till 1950s extending along the western face of the Western Ghats all the way from Wayanad in the north, past the current Silent Valley plateau, and further south to the rim of the Palakkad Gap. From the cultivated plains of Kerala it was contiguous forests all the way up the crest line and further east. The more extensive the forest area, and the more contiguous the ecosystems, there is a better chance for its biodiversity to survive a greater length of time without significant species loss. But everywhere in the world the biggest threat to biodiversity is the disruption of the ecosystem continuity. The resultant fragments will be able to contain not only far fewer species but external influences can adversely affect the viability of the remaining smaller islands more severely and faster. Silent Valley is one such residual island. In fact, on a closer look, even at present it is not one composite forest ecosystem but a number of already disarticulated sub fragments. Even without direct human intervention some of the smaller fragments, particularly along the southern rim of the plateau exposed to the changing climate of the desiccating plains (for example, in the Nilikkal plateau close to the proposed dam site), are rapidly losing their system resilience and species erosion is accelerating. This fragmentation will be further accelerated by the proposed project activity.
By the second half of the 1970s, the only large contiguous evergreen forest tract remaining along the western face of the Western Ghats south of Coorg in Karnataka and north of the Palakkad Gap, was the Silent Valley Reserved Forest and its continuation north into the New Amarambalam Reserved Forest of the Nilambur South Division. The Silent Valley forests also continued east across the ridge into the Attappady Reserved Forest of the Mannarkad Division. Since then the link with the northern New Amarambalam had become extremely attenuated. And the forests in the Attappady R.F. have been practically wiped out. Hence as the total area is rapidly decreasing, the threat to the remaining species diversity is conversely increasing. The remaining biodiversity of the Silent Valley plateau has been saved so far by the relative inaccessibility of the area. This isolation has been a product of the topography of the location. This tabletop plateau had forest fringes all around and the road access from the south-west corner was opened only in the 1940s.
The global perception of the severe threat to all the biospheric biodiversity resulted in various moves to safeguard it since the Second World War. The focus then was on ‘Wildlife’. Setting up Game Reserves and other Protected Areas was one early step to counter extinction of species. The genetic value of tropical forests was recognised subsequently and the conservation focus shifted from species preservation to ecosystem conservation. In the 1970s after the Stockholm Conference, linkages between economic security and ecological security were accepted by global leaders. Thus conservation became a priority agenda for most nations for sustainable development. By 1980s biodiversity has come to be accepted as a human heritage beyond regional or national considerations and safeguarding it has attained priority above exploitative development.
The Western Ghat hill chain in Peninsular India is now recognised as a globally important biodiversity hotspot. In particular the Southern Western Ghats along the Kerala - Tamil Nadu border is known as one of the three most important repositories of biodiversity within India. Hence in 1986 the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve was established by the Government of India to conserve this wealth. Silent Valley National Park occupies its hub as the most important core area. The Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve received UNESCO accreditation in 2001.
Yet on the ground, practical measures to safe guard the biodiversity of Silent Valley remain grossly inadequate. The National Park boundary which is the old Reserved Forest boundary is neither ecologically sound nor adequate for protecting the area. There is no buffer area for this National Park. The extensive private forests continuing beyond the R.F. boundary towards the north-western, western and southern sides acting as an insulating buffer for the main plateau forests has been lost. Encroachments, forest alienation, conversion of forests to tree plantations and fire degradation have practically wiped out the buffer available outside the Park in 1984. This had happened in spite of the Nationalisation of Private Forests in 1971, the Forest Conservancy Act 1980, the notification of the Silent Valley National Park in 1984, the notification of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve in 1986 and greater environmental consciousness.
Prior to nationalisation there had been some timber extraction by the erstwhile owners from the forests along the southern and western slopes outside the Silent Valley Reserved Forests. Yet the forest cover extended for a minimum width of 5 km. down to the Mannarkad or Kalikavu plains. But subsequently alienation of the nationalised forests reduced this buffer so drastically that along two or three points, the National Park boundary now directly abuts on to cultivated lands. Along the southern face of the Silent Valley plateau man made forest fires have degraded or removed all residual forest vegetation around Poochippara, Neelikkal, Aruvampara etc. Where such fire maintained grasslands extend from outside into the Park, fire threat to the biodiversity of Silent Valley is severe. The Park boundary closest to the proposed Pathrakkadavu Hydroelectric Project is one such area. The timber extraction immediately prior to the nationalisation along the fringes of Silent Valley had led to reed regeneration in these very heavy rainfall hilltops. But this was extracted by the Forest Department in the late 1970s and the early 1980s leading to the opening up of the area, increased fire damage and drastic retrogression of the remaining forests in the exposed ridge tops. The Nilikkal plateau immediately to the north-west of Pathrakkadavu is the best example. A best representative evergreen forest within Silent Valley monitored as a preservation plot during the British administration was located in here. Currently along the southern flank of Silent Valley National Park on either side of the gorge there are only scattered pockets of evergreen forests interspersed with extensive fire maintained savanna grasslands. Although there had been some degree of protection since the declaration of the National Park, the slow regeneration taking place is still highly vulnerable to any human interference. This is exactly the threat posed by the proposed project.
The degradation of forests, particularly by fire and the desiccation of the Kerala plains further west are altering the micro and meso climate of the Silent Valley plateau adversely affecting the remaining forests. Uprooting of trees by wind, reduced atmospheric humidity eliminating moisture demanding plants and many other factors are gradually eroding the biodiversity. Hence the primary requirement to protect Silent Valley is to increase the buffer area depth. Forest fires have to be prevented farthest from the plateau at the very base of the outer slopes, not after they have reached the edge of the plateau.
On the left bank of the Kunthi gorge, on the south-western edge of the Silent Valley plateau but located outside the Reserve, there is an old cardamom, coffee plantation located within the adjacent Attappady Reserved Forest. This is another nucleus of ecodegradation. This estate should have been acquired as part of strengthening the Protected Area network of the State in the interest of the nation. During 1975-82 period, when work on the Silent Valley Hydroelectric dam had commenced, the access route to this estate from the plains through Tattengalam was frequently used to come up to the dam site. It is only one or two hour climbing up from Mannarkad plains rather than a 40 km. journey by road. Even now intrusion to this part of the National Park can take place through this route. The proposed workers’ colony for the Pathrakkadavu Project is at Tattengalam and is sure to exert considerable pressure on the south-western edge of Silent Valley and reopen this old access route, particularly since new roads will be developed right up to the edge of the Park to the new project site.
Due to a variety of reasons this part of Silent Valley is the most vulnerable part of the National Park. The only access road route to the National Park from Mukkali climbs up through the Karuvara valley into the plateau along this edge. Silent Valley forests earlier continued unbroken across the Reserve boundary and included within it the area leased to the estate. The larger sweep of forests continued further south – south-west along the outer slopes bordering Thenkara and extended beyond the Muthikulam (Siruvani) Hills 20 km. to the south. The same forest continuity extended east beyond Mukkali across the Bhavani River into the Attappady Plateau. All the forests on the western slopes were evergreen forests feeding Kunthi as well as Nellippuzha, yet another tributary of Thutha Puzha.
After the nationalisation of the Private Forests, in the latter part of the 1970s, 6000 ha. of forests along the Thenkara – Anamooli slopes mentioned above was transferred to the Plantation Corporation of Kerala for clear felling and conversion into cashew plantation. Most of this area has now become barren rocky slopes resulting in the death of Nellippuzha. It is through this tract that the Mannarkad – Mukkali – Attappady – Coimbatore road passes. Another 350 ha. of forests immediately to the north of this tract was transferred to the Attappady Tribal Co-operative Farming Society for cultivating cardamom, coffee and pepper. This area drained by Panthanthodu, a tributary of the east flowing Bhavani was a critical vegetation corridor with rich evergreen forests. This had already been under threat even earlier. The road from Mukkali to Silent Valley was cut through this tract. On the northern edge of the forest land transferred to the tribal farm, the Attappady Reserved Forest was clear felled and converted to teak and eucalyptus plantations in the late 1960s and early 1970s. As the valley evergreen forests were opened up and converted, the remaining forests on the steep ridges also got degraded to open vegetation or rocky outcrops. Even a tiny strip of land transferred for an irrigation canal around Mukkali immediately resulted in the entire tract getting encroached in 1976-77. Now a few hundred families occupy the area where previously there was only a small forest outpost. Immediately to the south-western side of Mukkali, the erstwhile owners of the Private Forest had converted a large patch of natural forest into a teak plantation. Mukkali is a vital link, a low point in the Western Ghat crestline, hardly 500m above mean sea level, linking up the east sloping Attappady forests, the higher Silent Valley forests and the extensive forests along the western slope of the Western Ghats. Because Mukkali provides the only access to Attappady, it was opened up first. From here forest destruction extended towards the north-west into Silent Valley, north into Bhavani Valley and eastward into the entire Attappady plateau. Even now there is a large KSEB colony established in 1970s for the SVHEP located on the vital forest corridor.
Thus through a series of unconnected activities the forest continuity from the south-west corner of Silent Valley to forest further south and east has been severed over a period of three decades. By terrainal conditions this was the natural, heavily forested and ecologically vital ‘neck’. The proposed PHEP to be located immediately to the west and at the base of this saddle further broadens this discontinuity. The existing Tattengalam powerhouse colony of the old SVHEP and the new PHEP site will disrupt the vegetation corridor for more than a kilometre width. A few thousand dam site construction workers who are initially projected to occupy the area for four years (but as we know in the case of Kerala this would extend into decades ending up in a large permanent settlement) are now going to finally severe whatever tenuous link remains.
The second reason for opposing the proposed project is its impact on the entire Bharatha Puzha.
The EIA for the PHEP attempts to assess the impact of the construction activities on the impoundment site. The project is yet another water impoundment in the Bharatha Puzha basin. The proposed project must be viewed against the current state of health of the second largest river basin in Kerala, especially taking into consideration the condition of all the existing dams in it.
Bharatha Puzha drains an area of 6186 sq.km. of which 4400 sq.km. fall within the State of Kerala. It is unquestionably the most severely damaged river in the State. The acute water scarcity and accelerating desertification of Palakkad (which is simultaneously the most important rice growing area of the State) is no more a contested theme. Yet it is often overlooked that this district and this basin have the largest number of large dams in Kerala practically all constructed for irrigation of paddy crop. It may not be so well publicised that routinely after monsoon there is not enough water to be distributed in the command areas of these dams. That dams constructed originally for irrigation are now more vital as drinking water supply sources with no available alternative! Both Malampuzha and Pothundy provide illustrative examples.
Bharatha Puzha located in the Palakkad Gap has topographically two major disadvantages. The absence of the Western Ghats for about 45 km. along the eastern border of the district create unique climatic conditions, particularly wind and rainfall patterns occurring no where else in the State. The rivulets and tributaries feeding Bharatha Puzha originate from extremely steep scarp slopes along the flanks of the Ghats which are ecologically extremely sensitive. Once the wind stunted fragile specialised forest communities on the scarps are disturbed, they degrade to leave only barren rock. They cannot be regenerated by human effort. The continuous dry high velocity winds blowing across the Gap desiccates the land once the tree cover is lost, especially so since the adjacent eastern Coimbatore plains are even more severely desertified. Expansion of cultivation, particularly paddy, initially removed all the tree cover in the plains. The scattered hillocks found all along the Gap were mostly privately owned forest lands. After nationalisation in 1971 they lost all their vegetation cover and were mostly eroded to rocky stumps. This killed off all the smaller watersheds and the newly exposed rocky terrain heating up added to the desiccation of the Palakkad Gap. Most such rocky areas are currently being converted to rock quarries and the rock dust from crusher units adds to the heating up of the atmosphere.
Due to a complex of historical reasons the British Government notified as Reserved Forests only about 175 sq.km. area within the Kerala part of the basin (Silent Valley, Chenath Nair, Walayar and a few smaller Reserves like Panakkadan). After the vesting of Private Forests, including all the scrub and rocky waste in the plains, the basin has hardly 500 sq.km. of land in the possession of the Forest Department spread over three Territorial and two Wildlife Divisions. Outside the State, in the Aliyar sub-basin, along the south-eastern corner of the Bharatha Puzha basin, in steeper slopes with much less rainfall, there is about 100 sq.km. of Reserved Forest in the Pollachi taluk of Tamil Nadu. For a basin extending over more than 6000 sq.km., not even ten percent of the land area is even nominally forested. Unlike other river basins in the State, the catchment slopes of Bharatha Puzha rise abruptly from the Palakkad plains located at elevations of less than 50m above mean sea level to elevations of 1500 or even 2000m within an aerial distance of 2 or 3 kms. The 89 sq.km. Silent Valley forests are the only plateau part of the entire catchment. Because this still remains under evergreen forest cover, Kunthi has some lean season water flow, the only live tributary in the entire river basin. Excluding Silent Valley, within the 400 odd sq.km. of forest land, there is no compact patch of evergreen forest covering even 10 sq.km. In other words, within the 6186 sq.km. basin with a hill area upper catchment extending over about 1500 sq.km., there is only less than 100 sq.km. of live catchment regulating run off into the river. Even of this 100 sq.km. more than 70 sq.km. falls within Silent Valley. Hence Bharatha Puzha as a river is dead. It is only a conduit for rainwater that has not been soaked up by the parched soil. Increasing water demand forcing excessive ground water withdrawal and the death of soils specifically due to chemical deformation by excessive agro-chemical application are speeding up the desertification of Palakkad.
Excluding the Silent Valley National Park and some inaccessible pockets in the Karimala – Palamala ridge falling within the Olavakkod and Walayar ranges, all other forests in the basin are close to and accessible from the densely inhabited plains. They are all under unsustainable exploitative, degradative pressures. Palakkad has a more than average proportion of its population as agricultural labour. Even that is essentially seasonal employment in the paddy sector. A significant proportion of this population must be depending up on some wild biodiversity for some income generation. Hence the tremendous pressure on the remaining forests of Palakkad District can be imagined. Yet in the public discussions regarding water scarcity in Kerala or drought in Palakkad, the forest issue has never been raised.
In none of the dam catchments in Palakkad there is a perennial stream surviving. This is true with the largest dam Malampuzha or the dams where the entire catchments were encroached and occupied along with the dam construction as in Kanjirapuzha or Mangalam. Even for the dam where the catchment is Reserved Forest without encroachment as in Pothundy, the condition is no different. Yet apart from clamouring for more dams such as Karappara-Kuriarkutty and others, there has not been public articulation of the resolve to rehabilitate catchment forests of the existing dams. With very little investment this should not only have augmented the lean season inflow into the reservoirs but also mitigated the drought conditions in the district and provided economic resources for marginalised sections of the society. Comprehensive measures to arrest the desertification of Palakkad including massive tree planting, redesigning landuse practices and changing crops for the conservation of water have not been considered. In the absence of a holistic understanding of the basin and its ills, grossly inadequate and often counter productive superficial measures such as check dams and rainwater soak pits are being touted as solutions. This illustrates the root of the problem besetting Bharatha Puzha and Palakkad.
The proposed Pathrakkadavu H.E.P. is to be located on the southern flank of the Silent Valley plateau, 400 odd meters higher up from the base of the scarp and 800 meters below the crest. Along the roughly 20 km. of similar precipitous slopes on the western side of Silent Valley, at least 13 large (third order or fourth order) streams originate. Their channel conditions and the vegetation remnants along their banks indicate their past perennial nature and the much larger volume of water they used to discharge. Now most of them dry up in summer and in the others lean season flow is nominal. Rainfall along these western faces of the Western Ghats is more than 4500mm per year. The EIA prepared for the KSEB has classified the forest vegetation around the proposed project site as moist deciduous or dry deciduous forests. But ecological principles establish that any tropical site where the annual rainfall is more than 1800mm could have evergreen forests. The proposed dam site even now has remnants of evergreen forest vegetation. Their current condition only indicates severe degradation over a few decades through destructive human interventions. This and the comparable history of forest degradation around the existing 13 large dam sites in the basin could help us predict the impact on the vegetation and the river when a much larger number of people occupy Pathrakkadavu for a considerable length of time. And unfortunately the impact will permeate from the site to the vulnerable part of Silent Valley which is hardly one km. away west, north and east. Even if strict policing is imposed (which has not happened in Kerala so far and which would be mere wishful thinking to expect in this project site alone), and timber felling and encroachments are curbed, the bane of forests in Palakkad, which is the regular annual man made forest fires cannot be stopped. Forest fires can be prevented only by excluding man and helping forests regain their humid nature. Increasing access to the southern flank of Silent Valley will simply multiply the frequency, intensity and reach of forest fires in a disastrous scale.
For the people of Palakkad and adjacent areas of Thrissur and Malappuram districts there is no alternative but to depend up on Bharatha Puzha for survival. Because of Silent Valley, Kunthi River has some water flow in summer and the downstream reaches of Thutha Puzha also gets some water during summer. Hence the priority for the district is to prevent any more human interventions affecting the stream flow of this river. Safeguarding all the remaining catchment forests of the river also is most important. A few megawatts of projected energy availability should not even be considered as an option.
The third reason for opposing the PHEP is that from the developmental or to be more accurate from the survival point of view of the State, additional power generation is not at all a pressing issue.
During the summer of 2004, Kerala faced an unprecedented drought. Practically all hydroelectric power projects excepting Idukki almost stopped generating power due to a lack of water in the reservoirs. Yet the State survived with only half an hour loadshedding per day. Sundays, festival days, examination days etc. were all exempted from powercut. Most of the non hydel power generating units were also closed down for various reasons. There was no voluntary energy conservation measures in homes or institutions. On the other hand energy was squandered with festive abandon. Since 1975 the dam construction lobby has been literally blackmailing the State through statements to the effect that unless Silent Valley HEP is taken up the State will sink into total darkness. Yet nothing of the sort has happened in spite of considerable increase in demand, although the demand did not shoot up as projected by the KSEB. The power generating monopoly has never taken the public into confidence or shown professional integrity through sharing factual information regarding energy actually generated from the different generating stations, the actual demand, real transmission loss or pilferage. Perhaps no one knows. In any case there is no public accountability. There has never been any meaningful constructive pressure from the civil society for an energy auditing in the State. Apart from vociferous demands for more hydel projects there has never been any open discussion in search of solutions for mitigating Kerala’s energy problems.
An environmental auditing of the cost of power generation in the State has not even been thought of. In economic terms and in ecological values the forests or the rivers of the State have not been looked at by anybody. The costs inflicted upon the basic survival resource systems of the State by the past dam constructions and drainage basin modifications will have to be worked out hopefully soon. The ecological illiteracy of the societal leadership and of the society is costing the current generation itself dearly in drought, agricultural collapse, diseases and economic stagnation. And the price is going to be unimaginable for the future generations. At least at this late hour scarce resources and precious time should be invested to salvage wherever investments have been made for natural resource development, specifically water and power. But unfortunately the current trend is to scatter our limited resources all around in cynical disdain of the past mistakes.
Anyone familiar with Kunthi, particularly anyone, who has seen the river during the summer of 2004, will have no illusions regarding the electricity generation potential of the river. It almost stopped flowing in March. The case of the remaining rivers in the State can be imagined. It is a time for conservation of energy and all other limited resources of the State judiciously for the common good. And it is the time for ecologically restoring the landscape and the human mindscape.
Dr.S.Sathis Chandran Nair 20th May 2004
Thiruvananthapuram 695 010