Opposition to the proposed Aranmula greenfield airport will once again be taken to New Delhi with poet Sugathakumari planning to petition the Central authorities against the project.
The poet, who left for New Delhi on Thursday, said she would raise the issue with the Union Defence Minister A.K. Antony and other national leaders. The fight against the airport will be taken up with all the authorities concerned. “It’s a peaceful and Gandhian agitation against the project,” said Ms. Sugathakumari, the convener of the coordination committee against the airport project.
Incidentally, the local legislator, K. Sivadasan Nair, was manhandled by some persons, who were opposed to the project on Wednesday. Mr. Nair was reportedly in favour of the project. It has once again spotlighted the airport plan and its opposition.
Ecologists fear that the massive reclamation of wetlands, including paddy fields, for the airport will upset the hydrologic regime of the area besides upending the ecology of the region. Changes in the hydrologic regime would bring in floods and drought alike in the area, affecting the lives of hundreds of residents of the area, pointed out experts.
A rapid environmental impact assessment carried out by Salim Ali Foundation, Thrissur, pointed out that the airport was proposed in an area which had contiguous paddy lands and wetlands. “These paddy lands and wetlands serve as the flood plains of the Pamba River which control flooding in the area whenever the river overflows,” said V.S. Vijayan, chairman of the foundation and former chairman of the Kerala State Biodiversity Board.
Even if 500 acres of land is reclaimed as projected by the pro-airport groups, its impact would be felt over 3,500 acres. Reclamation will lower the water table of ponds and wells, leading to drinking water shortage. Reduction in water holding capacity of the wetlands would end up in flood waters inundating human habitations, he pointed out.
The report also criticised that the Environment Impact Assessment carried out for the project was silent on the “major impacts of reclaiming wetlands and paddy fields that extends approximately 400 acres. Worst still, the report does not even acknowledge that it is a wetland,” the report said.
N.K. Sukumaran Nair of the Pamba Parirakshana Samity feared that the reclamation of wetlands and resultant changes in the hydrological regime will leave its footprint over a wide area, affecting thousands of local residents. At least 1000 families will be hit by flooding besides the destruction of farmlands. The floodplains of Pamba River, namely Aranmula, Kurunthar and Kidangoor Punchas which are spread over 3 sq.km, would be affected, he said.
It would require at least 40 lakh load of earth for reclaiming the wetlands as proposed by the advocates of the project. Earth for the massive reclamation of wetlands would come from levelling of hills.