Peace shattered at Shantivanam sacred grove as KSEB resumes piling work

Peace shattered at Shantivanam sacred grove as KSEB resumes piling work
Piling work at Shantivanam by KSEB. Photo: Manorama
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Vazhikulangara: The Kerala State Electricity Board has resumed the construction of a huge power transmission tower at the ecologically rich grove called Shantivanam at North Paravur in Ernakulam district. Fearing local opposition, the help of police was sought as piling work restarted here at a private property that is home to both flaura and fauna.

Meena Menon, who owns the property, and environmentalists protested when the authorities and workers came to carry out the piling work of a 110 KV transmission tower. The protestors staged a sit-in as the work went on.

Environmentalists such as Prof Shobeendran, Sivan Madathil, Saleena and Prof M K Prasad visited the controversial spot the other day.

V D Satheesan, MLA, lashed out at the KSEB for the environmentally hazardous work.

“KSEB's action was highly improper. It did not keep its word of confining the construction to half a cent of land, but went on to destroy large portion of land for the piling work. The minister, on the other hand, also made it clear that there won't be any change in alignment. For a minister who has given the nod to destroy over 1,000 acres of forest land at Athirappilly, causing damage to a two-acre man-made forest this could be a non-issue," Satheesan stated referring to Kerala Power Minister.

"Shantivanam is the result of effort and energy taken by a family over four generations. I am not dead against setting up a transmission tower. But the alignment was chosen towards Shantivanam to satisfy vested interests. Hence I would give my wholehearted support to the agitation launched by the mother and daughter, who lives inside the man-made forest in Kottuvally panchayat of North Paravur," he added.

Earlier, the stakeholders were called for talks at the district collectorate twice. But no consensus could be reached as the government made it clear that it would go ahead with the project at all costs. As against the earlier plan, the height of the tower will now be increased to 22.4 m from 19.4 m.

The environmentalists, on the other hand, are planning to strengthen their protests in a bid to protect Shantivanam, a sacred grove with ponds. They are also planning to take legal course to stop the construction activities.

In order to retain the serene atmosphere of Shantivanam, the greens have called for an alternative mechanism to draw power lines and suspension of construction activities until a detailed study is conducted by experts. They also sought a clarification from the KSEB as to why the power grid that is bound to follow a straight path takes an abrupt deviation at Shantivanam.

To bring out less damage to the ecologically fragile area, the KSEB authorities have said that they would be cutting down only three trees from the biodiversity-rich plot, and trimming the branches of a few trees that are over 13.5 m of height. They have also promised to make up the loss by planting new trees at their expense. Moreover, it has been decided to wind up the daily construction activities inside the man-made forest, which is home to birds, butterflies and snakes, by 6.30 pm so as to not disturb the ecosystem.

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