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Biodiversity and Conservation

Athirappilly Forest Conservation

Salim Ali Foundation is a part of the Chalakudy River Protection Forum and partners with Chalakudy Puzha Samrakshana Samiti (CPSS) for the conservation of Athirapilly forests and the Chalakudy River.

Below are excerpts from a document prepared by CPSS


    The 130 km long Chalakudy River, the fifth largest river in Kerala, drains the runoff from a 1704 sq.km catchment of which 1200 sq.km catchment area in Kerala is under the control of the Forest Department. Chalakudy River is unique in its rich fish diversity; at least 104 fish species have been located from this river. The National Bureau of Fish Genetic Resources based in Lucknow (NBFGR) has recommended the upstream areas of the river to be declared as a ‘fish sanctuary’. Two beautiful waterfalls; Athirappilly and Charpa and a rapid at Vazhachal attract lakhs of tourists from all over the world.
    This river basin is the only home to a primitive hunter-gatherer tribal group; the ‘Kadar’ their settlements scattered in the forests of the river basin.

    Five dams constructed in this river during the sixties namely Parambikulam, Thunacadavu, Peruvarippallam, Tamil Nadu Sholayar and Kerala Sholayar are part of the Parambikulam Aliyar Project (PAP). The Chalakudy River has hundreds of lift irrigation schemes and 30 Government operated drinking water supply schemes and a population of about 10 lakh directly dependent on the river for various uses. The upper catchment has a 200 year odd history of deforestation for agricultural and forestry plantations. Dams and inter basin water transfers have added to the degradation. Heavy sand mining, over extraction of water for drinking and irrigation even for other river basins and saline ingress are taking their toll on the river.

    The Kerala Government proposed to start several projects in different parts of this river basin: Athirappilly Hydro Electric Project, Poringalkuthu Right Bank HEPs, the Karappara- Kuriarkutty multipurpose project, the Edamalayar Augmentation scheme. It was believed that implementation of such would lead to further deterioration of river health.

    Research by different agencies identified that the proposed project area is notable due to the following factors:
    1. the elephant migratory route connecting Parambikulam WLS with Pooyamkutty forests passes through the submergence area.
    2. all the four species of hornbills of Western Ghats are found in this area
    3. the rare, remnant patches of low elevation riparian forest habitat occur here
    4. this forms a high fish diversity zone, with the Chalakudy river being one of the highest fish diversity rivers in India (104 sp) and the upper areas has been recommended for a fish sanctuary by the National Bureau of Fish Genetic Resources (NBFGR).
    5. this region forms the Mahseer Tor fish bank of India
    6. forms the habitat of the rare and endangered Cochin Forest Cane turtle Vijayachelys silvatica
    7. at least 215 bird species have been identified in this and its surrounding areas
    8. Larger mammals like elephants, gaur, sambhar, Nilgiri langur, lion-tailed macaque, Malabar giant squirrel and the tiger frequently spotted in this area
    more details are available in the Resources section.

    More details on CPSS activities can be found here.

    The WGEEP (Gadgil) Report, having consulted various stakeholders including technical experts (including Electricity Board, line departments), researchers (French Institute of Pondicherry, BirdLife International, Kerala Forest Research Institute, Kerala Biodiversity Board, National Bureau of Fish Genetic Resources), panchayat, tribals and public, recommended that the project should not be permitted. The HLWG (Kasturirangan) Report, however, suggested that the Kerala State Government could approach the Government of India, based on its new guidelines for Western Ghats. The matter is pending in the Kerala High Court.

1. Sequence of events on the Athirappilly Dam Project
2. Biodiversity values of Athirappilly
3. Critique and comments on the EIA reports submitted on the Athirappilly Project
4. Alternatives to the Athirappilly project

1. A booklet in Malayalam on the status of Chalakudy river ( 2002) published by the CPSS – Chalakudy Puzha -Charithram Varthamanam
2. Malayalam translation of the Executive Summary of the WCD Report 2000 for wider dissemination amongst public, political parties and legislature ( 2002)
3. Book on the Inter Linking of Rivers Experience in Kerala “Tragedy of Commons- The Kerala experience in River Linking” Published jointly by South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People based in New Delhi and River Research Centre.
( 2004)
4. Malayalam Publication ‘Varalchayude Kaanapurangal” (the hidden side of drought) in collaboration with the Forum for Policy Dialogue on Water Conflicts in India (2006).
5. Selected 20 articles on local water conflicts and crisis that had been published in the ‘Mathrubhumi’ news daily during World Water Week 2005 formed the basis for this booklet
6. A Campaign CD of the proposed Athirappilly project ‘Puzha Jeevanu Vendi” – River for Life prepared by Amitha Bachan of the CPSS.