The Aranmula Heritage Village Protection Action Council has moved the Environment Appraisal Committee of the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests seeking a review of the committee’s recommendation for environmental clearance for the private airport project in Aranmula.
Kummanam Rajashekharan, action council patron, told The Hindu here on Thursday that the promoters of KGS Aranmula International Greenfield Airport Ltd. had concealed important facts from the committee to obtain environmental clearance.
In his petition before the committee, Mr. Rajashekharan has said that the land identified for the project, across Aranmula, Mallappuzhassery and Kidangannur villages, consists of wetlands and paddy fields. The people there cultivate the land for a livelihood, and these villages are models of a harmonious and balanced ecosystem.
He said the nine-member Legislature Committee on Environment had submitted a report to the State government on July 9 on the disastrous impact on the environment from converting paddy fields and wetlands for building the airport.
Mr. Rajashekharan quoted from the Assembly panel report: “The committee cannot agree with the developmental activities that destroy water sources, acres of paddy fields under cultivation for centuries and the biodiversity of a locality. The committee recommends that the opinion of the inhabitants who are to be the victims of the environmental impact should be taken into consideration before going ahead with the project.”
He said the Assembly panel had realised that a considerable area of unclassified revenue (poramboke) land, even the portion of a natural stream, came within the 350 acres the private company had bought. It criticised the officials for not taking action to stop the illegal conversion of paddy fields, government land and the stream.
The Assembly committee had recommended an inquiry into the entire issue, besides action against the officials concerned and to retrieve the unclassified revenue land and reconvert land.
Though the Revenue Divisional Officer had ordered removal of the earth filled to reclaim the paddy land in 2005-07, no action had been taken.
Mr. Rajashekharan alleged that neither the Kerala State Pollution Control Board nor the State government had conducted any proper scientific environment impact assessment before recommending the project for environmental clearance from the Ministry’s committee. He said almost 60 acres of land, 20 acres being unclassified revenue land, had been illegally filled to a height of seven feet, making a mockery of the State machinery.
He said that in a letter, dated January 20, Defence Minister A.K. Antony had said the project could not be given a no-objection certificate as its establishment would restrict the airspace of the naval air station INS Garuda in Kochi.
The Assistant Land Revenue Commissioner had recommended a Vigilance inquiry into the project.
Producing documentary evidence, the action council urged the Ministry’s committee to review its recommendation.