The Chalakudy River Protection Forum held several public meetings last week to celebrate the first anniversary of their satyagraha protests against a massive hydroelectric power project on the Chalakudy River. The dam construction project that the government of Kerala advocates would destroy critical forest habitat, wipe out a Kadar village, and reduce the water flow to the Athirappilly Falls, a famed tourist attraction in the state.
On Monday, February 23, the Forum began the series of meetings with a public discussion in the Kerala Sahitya Academi Hall in the city of Thrissur. After several presentations, noted Indian film critic Prof. I. Shanmughadas introduced the feature film of the afternoon. The Bengali film the Forum presented, “Titaash Ekti Nadir Naam” (1971), portrays the lives of fishermen along a river in Bangladesh.
The second day of the activities, on Tuesday, the protesters held a public meeting at Satyagraha Pandal, near the Athirappilly Waterfalls. It featured the prominent actor Innocent, the president of the Association of Malayalam Movie Artists. Publicly expressing his support for the protests, he said that industrialization and development projects should not be pursued if they destroy the environment. Sunder Das, a film director, presided over the meeting, which another film director, Lohitadas, also attended.
On Wednesday, the actual anniversary of the satyagraha actions, the Forum organized a seminar on “Kerala’s Power Sector: Possibilities and Challenges” in the town of Chalakudy. The keynote address at the seminar was given by Prof. M. K. Prasad, Executive Chairman and Director of the Information Kerala Mission, a group that is automating and networking state agencies. He addressed the topic “Energy Crisis in Kerala—Challenges and Possibilities.” News reports last June identified Prasad, a prominent environmentalist, as a speaker at a forum that commemorated the 100th day of the satyagraha.