Demolition of the environmentally sensitive Maliyekkal hill in Ward-XII of Puramattom grama panchayat in Mallappally taluk in the name of railway doubling works in Pathanamthitta and Kottayam districts has triggered strong protests from the panchayat authorities as well as local people.

Taking serious note of the issue, the Puramattom panchayat committee has passed a resolution to check all hill demolition works in its jurisdiction in the larger interests of protecting the environment.

Ironically, the Revenue Divisional Officer in Thiruvalla, Antony Dominic, has granted permission to a Kochi-based company for removing 40,576.5 cubic metres of earth (8115 lorry loads) from an area of 1.44.23 hectares of land on Maliyekkal hill (Order No.1585/12/C2, dated 31-3-2012) in the name of the railway doubling work, disregarding the public protests, said Mr Jijo Mathew, local ward member and former panchayat president.

A meeting of the Puramattom panchayat committee chaired by the panchayat president, P.T. Seenakumari, has taken up the matter with the District Collector, P. Venugopal, but to no avail, he alleged.

Giant earth-movers and tipper lorries rolled over the hill for earth removal and the agitated local people, led by the panchayat members, forcibly stopped the work until the private company obtained police protection to carry out the earth removal under police protection, later.

Environmental issues

A Lakshamveedu colony and anther settlement colony for Scheduled Caste families situated in the close vicinity of the Maliyekkal hill have been witnessing acute water scarcity ever since the removal of earth from the hill for a public school project, earlier. There were allegations that the public school project was a ploy to get official clearance for earth removal and the project still remains a non-starter, said Mr Mathew.

He said the ongoing earth removal would ultimately lead to total demolition of the hill, badly affecting the environment, climate, and the ground water table.

The panchayat committee has submitted the local body’s resolution against the RDO’s order, besides the local action council’s mass memorandum to the district authority, seeking his immediate intervention in the matter a month ago. However, the Collector had asked the panchayat authorities to consult the RDO who, in turn, has been allegedly maintaining a studied silence towards the local people’s plea to stop the ongoing hill demolition, Ms Seenakumari said.

Mr Mathew said illegal hill demolition and paddy field conversion has become brisk business in many parts the taluk with the alleged connivance of certain Revenue officials.

He further alleged that the Revenue Divisional Authority has granted as many as 20 permissions in the past three weeks for earth removal in Puramattom panchayat that houses a good number of hills, disregarding the public protests.

A major portion of the once-towering Karimkuttymala (hill) in the panchayat have already been demolished and the remaining hills too were faced with a similar fate as the authorities concerned have been keeping a blind eye towards it for reasons best known to them, alleged Mr Mathew.

He said the panchayat committee has also resolved to move Kerala High Court, challenging RDO’s order granting permission to demolish the Maliyekkal hill.