Poet welcomes Congress president’s gesture

Congress president Sonia Gandhi has written to poet Sugathakumari that the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has not yet cleared the proposed airport project at Aranmula. The project has been put on hold by the Minister due to several representations received from NGO activists and eminent citizens, the letter said.

In a telephonic conversation with The Hindu, Ms. Sugathakumari said she had received a letter in this regard from Dhiraj Srivastava, private secretary to Ms. Gandhi, on Tuesday. KGS Group, promoters of the private airport project, had earlier claimed to have procured all requisite clearances.

The letter, dated August 21, says that “the project has been strongly recommended by the Government of Kerala, and the establishment of the greenfield airport at Aranmula was also mentioned in the President’s address to both Houses of Parliament in the beginning of the year.” The Minister had assured the detractors that no action would be taken till all facts were verified, it said. “The MoEF has sought clarifications from the State government vide letter No. 10-51/2010-IA-III, dated July 17 and 18, 2013.”

Welcoming the Congress president’s prompt response to the memorandum filed by the Joint Action Council (JAC), Ms. Sugathakumari called for the former’s immediate intervention to save the remaining paddy land and wetland in Kerala so as to maintain the country’s food security.

Concern

Mr. Sugathakumari, who is also the chairperson of the Joint Action Council campaigning against the private airport, which requires large-scale conversion of paddy land and wetland in Aranmula expressed deep concern over the firm stand adopted by the State government in support of the “anti-people and anti-nature” project.

She said the government as well as the MoEF should clarify why the Legislative Committee on Environment chaired by Congress MLA C.P. Mohammed had opposed the airport project.

She alleged that the so-called expert committee report submitted to the State government as well as the MoEF was a “manipulated desk-top report” managed by certain vested interests. The report not even mentioned the vast expanse of paddy land and wetland in Aranmula, she alleged.

Ms. Sugathakumari said the ongoing agitation to save Aranmula was a struggle to protect the remaining paddy land and wetland in the State. She said scientists had already cautioned against alarming groundwater depletion due to wanton land conversion across the State.

The poet said eminent persons such as V.R. Krishna Iyer, K.P.S. Menon, religious leaders, scientists, social activists, and 73 of the 140 MLAs in the Assembly had signed the JAC memorandum submitted to the Prime Minister against the Aranmula airport project.

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