The National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) has called upon the Government to take a strong resolve not to permit any more conversion of paddyfield or wetland in the larger interests of the very existence of the land of Kerala.

In a joint statement issued here on Saturday, the NAPM leaders, Medha Patkar, Gabriele Dietrich, Prafulla Samantara, Sandeep Pandey, Goe Ghosh, Hussein Master, George Jacob and Madhuresh Kumar said records available with the State Planning Board showed that Kerala lost over 5,00,000 hectares of paddy fields between 1980 and 2007 but has failed to add more land under cultivation.

It said the wanton conversion of wetlands and paddy fields taking place in the name of ‘development’ at Aranmula for the Private Aranmula Greenfield International Airport project should be brought to a halt and Government should take over all illegally converted land for agriculture purposes and cancel the project immediately.

Expressing solidarity with the people agitating against the airport project, the statement said “NAPM stood firm with the people of Aranmula and supports the struggle against proposed Airport. We also urge that laws like Kerala Industrial Single Window Clearance Boards and Industrial Township Area Development Act-1999 be repealed since they usurp the constitutionally granted rights of Gram Sabha.’’

Grama sabhas have the sole right to plan development in their area as per the 73rd and 74th Amendments of the Constitution and Kerala Government must respect it, it added.

‘Aerotroplois’ model

“The proposed airport on the model of ‘Aerotropolis’ is completely unnecessary since Kerala already has enough Airports.’’ Aerotropolis is a new urban form placing airports in the center with cities growing around them, connecting workers, suppliers, executives, and goods to the global marketplace.

Kerala with a coast length of 590 km and width between 11 to 121 km, has already got three international airports at Thiruvananthapuram, Kozhikode and Kochi and plans to build a fourth one in Kannur, besides the proposal for a private airport at Aranmula. It appears that something is extremely wrong with the development and planning of the State which is known for its participatory development planning model as being touted through various studies, the statement said.

Private airport at Aranmula

The NAPM statement says that the Chennai-based KGS Group, promoter of the proposed KGS International Greenfield Airport at Aranmula, got the clearance after Kerala Industries department declared 500 acres of land spread across the Mallappuzhasserry, Aranmula and Kidangannur villages as industrial area. The clearance was granted invoking the provisions in the Kerala Industrial Single Window Clearance Boards and Industrial Township Area Development Act 1999.

Mrs Patkar alleges that the Act passed in 1999, usurps the powers of the local self-government institutions and is aimed at bypassing the otherwise mandatory clearances required for various projects from the panchayats, municipalities and Town Planning Department and development authorities in the land notified as industrial area.

“As per section-18 of the Act, those places notified as industrial area would not only remain outside the purview of the master plan or zonal plan but also remain excluded from any legislation passed by the State Assembly. This is completely unacceptable,’’ the statement said.

Plachimada issue

The NAPM statement said that the Coca Cola factory at Plachimada had managed to get clearance by utilising the single window clearance system of the same Act. “It is unfortunate that the government has failed to learn any lesson from the decade-long struggle of the Plachimada Coca Cola Virudha Samara Samithi against the Coca Cola factory. Even though the Kerala Assembly passed with consensus the

Plachimada Coca-Cola Victims’ Relief and Compensation Claims Special Tribunal Bill, 2011, it did not have any impact on the development planning and need for establishing the rights of the Gram Sabha,’’ NAPM leaders alleged.

Medha to address rally

In another statement issued here on Sunday, Mr P. Prasad, a close associate of Medha Patkar, said the latter, along with various other NAPM leaders would be addressing a massive rally in Aranmula soon.