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Landslides again: CM Pinarayi owes his people an explanation
Opinion

Landslides again: CM Pinarayi owes his people an explanation

Ajayan

It was a near repeat of the 2018 August natural calamity in Kerala this year. But unlike last time, dams were not opened at one go, yet there was the same type of tragedy in most of the hilly regions where landslides buried people. Hon'ble Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, when you visited the people at the camps in Wayanad and Malappuram this time did you remember the 71st point in the LDF election manifesto? "A White Paper will be issued within six months after the advent of power about the present status of the environment. All the anti-environment and anti-people orders will be re-examined." But everything is still blank.

When you halved the distance for quarries from roads, rivers and residential buildings to 50 metres claiming severe shortage of construction materials, how environment-friendly was it and what has been its impact?

Worse, even after the 2018 flood, did your Government not give licences to more quarries?

Didn't section 76 of the poll manifesto say "the permit for mining of sand and granite will be issued only after proper study"? To supplement, Section 85 says: "A master plan will be prepared on the demand and supply of all construction materials. The re-utilization of construction materials will be promoted." Science says that blasting of rocks have repercussions that go far and fast, which explains why hillocks deep inside forests simply rolled down and buried innocent lives under the impact of granite quarrying some distance away.

Studies had pointed that the over 1,900 areas struck by landslides during the August 2018 flood were prone to such a disaster where the soil had not hardened. Of the disaster-prone areas, at least 80 regions witnessed landslides this time. Kavalapara in Nilambur and Puthumala in Wayanad where the worst disasters happened were identified as highly vulnerable to landslides by the National Centre for Earth Studies in 2010 itself.

Besides, there happens soil piping or internal erosion where voids are formed within a soil because of removal of material leading to seepage. It is the second most common cause of failure in levees, say studies. Again, when you wax eloquently about court verdicts, did you ask your MLA to act after the High Court directed him several times to demolish the illegally constructed check dam on his water theme park that posed a threat during the 2018 flood?

Reminding you again about your front's poll manifesto: "The steps taken by the UDF to dilute the laws on conservation of paddy land and land utilisation will be withdrawn. Strict action will be taken against unlawful reclamation of paddy land. The efforts from certain quarters to bypass the Land Limitation Act through benami dealing will be stopped." (Section 73). Did your Government not dilute the wetland laws to help more landfilling despite knowing that such wetlands help in watershed management?

To add, what did you do to check the Revenue Secretary, who just before retiring, overruled the District Collector's order to reclaim 15 acres of paddy fields for a businessman your party leader VS Achuthanandan once described as a 'much-hated' person? Your party's stand against the Keezhattoor agitation by 'Vayalkilikal' (many of its members were part of your party once) against filling of paddy fields for the highway was, going by people's opinion, certainly not environment-friendly.

Also, remember that it was mandatory to have the District Collector’s no-objection certificate to mine ordinary clay from paddy fields. But your Government's concern for those mining outweighed that for the environment and the stipulation was simply removed. Yet another reminder and that is about Western Ghats, especially when your Government is going ahead with the Kerala Rebuild Initiative. The manifesto said:

"The importance of Western Ghats in preservation of ecology of Kerala will be understood in correct perspective and a project for the conservation of Western Ghats will be implemented with the active participation of the farming community and local inhabitants." (Section 74). And it could be construed that as part of this concern for local inhabitants your Government very recently decided to regularise all constructions of 1,500 sq. ft plinth area on encroached land up to 15 cents in Idukki district, even on slopes, which certainly goes against the grind of eco-friendly development.

The Gadgil panel report in 2013 warned of a disaster in the Western Ghats in four or five years. It has happened, not once but twice, and the threat lingers. Do you still subscribe to your old stand that the Gadgil panel is hoax done as part of an NGO racket for money?

Comrade, people cannot live under constant fear. If the voter asks you whether you've kept your poll promises, will you react in the same style that you claim you will not change?