KSEB plans explosions in forest to build tunnel for hydropower project

KSEB plans explosions in forest to build tunnel for hydropower project
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Thrissur: A proposed project of the Kerala State Electricity Board Limited (KSEB) in the forests of the Athirapally forest range is set to raise the hackles of environmentalists even as the state government nod is awaited.

The state utility plans to construct a 5.7km tunnel to bring water for power production after building a power house at Anakkayam in the Athirapally forest range. The adverse environment impact caused by the diversion of the natural course of a river through the underground is a cause of concern.

Moreover, the hydroelectric project calls for limited explosion in the protected forest area where there is even restriction for vehicles so that the habitat of wild animals is not disturbed.

The initial plan was to construct the tunnel by drilling, but with this method the project cost would be a whopping Rs 185 crore; hence the KSEB decided to construct the tunnel using the controlled explosion technology which is comparatively cheaper. It has approached the government for sanction for the controlled explosion and hopes to complete the construction of the project with a reduced cost of Rs 120 crore.

Forest department has already allotted eight hectares of land to the KSEB for tunnel construction from Sholayar to Anakkayam. As many as 2,000 trees have to be felled for the construction of the power house at Anakkayam.

The tender for felling the trees has been already notified.

The Board has approached the state government for getting sanction for the project which was first planned about 20 years ago but was kept on the back burner so far. Now the project is being revived without conducting any environmental impact assessment.

Limited gain?

The power generated by the Sholayar Hydro Electric Project nearby is 23 crore units annually. The planned project at Anakkayam would generate only 10 per cent of this output.

The annual power that could be generated from Anakkayam was estimated at 2.28 crore unit annually. If one unit of power costs Rs 5, as per current tariffs, it would take at least 10 years to recover the money spend for the project. Moreover, the project will take five years to complete.

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