The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests in New Delhi issued a statement last week that may halt a proposed dam on the Chalakudy River in Kerala. According to a news report in The Hindu, a major Indian newspaper, the MOEF directed the Kerala State Electricity Board, which has been pushing for the project, to show cause why the environmental clearance the agency had issued in July, 2007, should not now be revoked.
The proposed dam has prompted a lot of opposition from environmental activists in Kerala and elsewhere in India due to the fact that it would destroy the habitat for numerous species of wildlife. It would also have a serious impact on a Kadar community. The MOEF notice said, according to The Hindu, “It has come to the Ministry’s notice that the primitive Kadar … colony is located in areas surrounding the proposed dam site… and that valuable biodiversity would be endangered.”
The protests by environmental groups, scientists, and people sympathetic to the plight of the Kadar have made the news numerous times over the past two years. The state government has 15 days to respond to the order.
The state government reacted quickly. On Thursday, the Kerala Electricity Minister, A. K. Balan, met with Jairam Ramesh, the Union Minister for Environment and Forests in New Delhi. The two men evidently did not resolve the matter—at least to the satisfaction of the Kerala government. Balan said after the meeting, according to another news report, that the central government should be honest about why the permission, already issued, has now been denied. “There is a deep rooted conspiracy behind attempts to thwart this project and at the appropriate time, I would reveal it,” Mr. Balan said.
On Friday, the former Chief Minister of the state, Oommen Chandy, described the hydroelectric power project as crucial for Kerala. He acknowledged that there were environmental problems with it, but that they would be easy to overcome. “This project can go ahead without causing any fears of environmental degradation,” he said. So far, there are no reports that anyone has traveled up the Chalakudy river to the dam site and asked the perspectives of the Kadar themselves on this recent development.