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Ecological disaster awaits Kerala
In My View

Ecological disaster awaits Kerala

P.C. Punnen

Keralites are, it seems,reluctant to take note of the serious issues which await them . They are more interested and spend enormous time on political issues and take no notice of ecological issues. That's a tragedy. Ecological issues are more important than Sabarimala issue or the quarrel between Orthodox and Jacobites or the Rafael issue.

Keralites do not pay serious attention to issues like Alappad, a village in the Kollam district. The panchayat started an agitation which has lasted 100 days. The newspapers do not report it fully. They are more interested, it seems, in knowing who will be the candidates in the upcoming election and where. It is a sad situation.

Alappad is just an example, another one about the forest land issue in Kerala. Madhav Gadgil reported on the ecological issues but the Kerala government hasn't taken it seriously. He had suggested environmental protection and submitted a report in 2011. He was appointed by the centre. Gadgil had said the floods Kerala had to undergo were manmade. Kasturi Rangan gave a report on the same issue washing down Gadgil's report.

The Kasturi Rangan report the Ommen Chandy led government did not approve of. It had recommended that 123 villages totalling 1300 acres be demarcated as ecologically sensitive area. The Kerala assembly had in 2011 unanimously passed a resolution to the Centre seeking exception to agriculture and plantation acres. The other states too have dilly-dallied on the Kasturi Rangan report. The centre too is playing politics. Winning votes is the main issue for the centre and the states. Protecting the environment thus gets pushed to the back burner.

On the Alappad issue, the Kerala government has taken a stand that the protesters are doing no good to the state; some political parties have lent support to the protests. It shows that politicians in Kerala are no better than politicians outside Kerala. The Kerala government has taken a stand that in the rainy season the land mining will be stopped. Land mining is the issue on which the protests began. Kerala can ignore this at its own peril. The State and the Centre need to attend to this on a far footing. Both should not ignore the fact that an environmental disaster will follow if the sand mining is not stopped immediately. Not that many families will be displaced but even drinking water will be scarce for many in the area, a point the activists have repeatedly pointed out

In Ponamma village in Alappad panchayat the locals are against beach sand mining. The sea erosion it causes is a serious issue. It is their land that is being eroded thanks to the companies. The Indian Rare Earth ( IRE) a central public sector undertaking and Kerala Minerals and Metals Ltd. (KMML) are the ones blamed by the protesters. The IRE says all mining norms have been followed. The companies were formed in 1960. Decades have passed since then and no protests were seen. That is bizarre. If the mining continues, salt water will enter other villages and even the paddy fields of central Travancore including Chavara in Alapuzha will be affected.

EP Jayarajan, a senior minister, said in the Assembly that black sand mining doesn't have any impact on the region. It was his response to the adjournment motion moved by PT Thomas, a Congressman .The protests are influenced by external forces he alleged. The mining has been going on for 60 years. It is this unchecked mining which has brought the area to this dangerous situation, which Jayarajan conveniently forgets.

German sailors used to visit Kollam in the 1920's allegedly they had this sand in mind say locals. The truth of it can never be established. The total area of the land in 1960 was much more than at present, now just 8 square kilometres. From 89 acres to eight the land that is being mined has decreased. It means the land has been eaten by the sea. The mining will end in 2020. What would be left with will depend on the Corporations whose commitment to protect the environment is disputed by the locals.

It is a serious issue and has to be properly studied and steps taken. Otherwise Kerala will be no more God's Own Country. It will be something else.

Kerala has a different mentality. People are more political than they ought to be. All the parties stood together to oppose the recommendations made by Gadgil and Kasturi Rangan. Keralites can't think of the future; they can only think of the present, a foolish attitude.

Nobody bothers much about environment issues. Gadgil and later Kasturi Rangan have submitted reports that have been shelved in political interest. That is a tragedy.

In cities also nothing much has been done to solve the problem of plastic waste. The governments of Pinarayi and Oommen Chandy have done precious little to solve this problem except lip sympathy and well drafted speeches from podiums. Something ought to have been done by now. Our neighbouring state Tamil Nadu is pro active in waste disposal and banning of plastic. Why aren’t we taking steps in that direction?