MK Prasad: The Evangelist of the ‘Save Silent Valley’ Campaign | save the silent valley protest | mk prasad save silent valley campaign
Jhe ‘Save Silent Valley’ campaign was perhaps the most benign yet effective protest Kerala had ever seen since its formation in 1956. Not only did it save the Silent Valley subtropical forest in Palakkad, but it also gave perpetual meaning to the phrase “What we save saves us”.
MK Prasad, the zealous environmental conservationist, played a key role in preventing the subtropical evergreen forest of Silent Valley from being flooded by a hydroelectric project. As the leader of Kerala Sasthra Sahithya Parishad (KSSP), he lifts the curtain on a protest which saw eminent personalities like Sugathakumari, MS Swaminathan, Karthikeya Sarabhai, Bittu Sahgal, Romulas Whitaker, Madhav Gadgil and many others giving themselves the hand.
There have been many protests in the past against these hydroelectric projects, these dams that have driven tribal communities off their land. However, the campaign in Silent Valley was against the adverse effects of the proposed project in the 1970s to set up a hydroelectric dam on the Kunthipuzha River which runs through Silent Valley, which will submerge 8.3 km² of untouched evergreen rainforest.
Although herpetologist Romulus Whitaker was the first to bring the valley to the attention of authorities, it took effort from local communities and MP Prasad to convince the other environmental activist of the dangers of the proposed project. He also formed a group, carried out an environmental impact study of the valley and recommended that the area be declared a biosphere reserve. A poem by Sugathakumari, “Marathinu Stuthi” (“Ode to a Tree”) became the epitome of the “Save the Silent Valley” campaign.
KSSP was thus able to generate public opinion against the project. As a result, in 1979, the government of Kerala passed legislation on the “Silent Valley Protection Area” (Ecological Balance Protection Act 1979) and declared the exclusion of the hydropower project area of the proposed national park. In 1983, the central government asked the state to abandon the project and declared the valley a national park in 1985.