KSEB will get back seigniorage soon
The Forest Department will shortly reimburse the seigniorage collected from Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) two decades ago for the controversial Athirappilly hydro electric project.
The Divisional Forest Officer (DFO), Vazhachal, will deposit the ₹4.11-crore seigniorage to the District Treasury, Thiruvananthapuram, in a day or two from where it will be credited to the bank account of the board, sources said.
Incidentally, the board had deposited the amount in the treasury in the account of the Vazhachal Forest Division on January 18, 2001, after obtaining the first environmental clearance for the project in January 1998. The Kerala Government had also accorded sanction for diverting 138.60 hectare for the project, forest officials said.
The original request of the board was to de-reserve 142.86 heactre forest for the project, which was later reduced to 140.66 hectare. However, the Central government had further reduced the area to be de-reserved to 138.60 hectare, according to forest records.
Besides the seigniorage, the department will also return ₹76.36 lakh and ₹38.40 lakh, which the board had deposited for compensatory afforestation in 166 hectare in the Vazhachal division and 120 hectare in the Thrissur division respectively. As many as 15,145 trees belonging to 126 species were to be cut down for the project, which had triggered a series of public protest.
The order for reimbursing the money was issued by Bennichan Thomas, the then Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Forest Management) on May 26, this year. The proceedings of the meeting were shared with the Chairman and Managing Director (CMD) of the board and the Accountant General. The DFO, Vazhachal, was instructed to initiate the steps for repayment of the money, according to the proceedings of the meeting.
The decision for reimbursement was taken considering a letter issued by the CMD on May 20, 2019 and the subsequent high power committee meetings convened by the Chief Secretary and the Additional Chief Secretaries.
The project, according to board officials, was currently not in the priority list of the board. The fate of the project depended on the policy decision of the government, they said.