Project will be beneficial only to land mafia: farmers’ forum

Protests by villagers and eco-groups are mounting against the alleged move of the government to set up a feeder airport at Cheekkalloor, near Panamaram, in the district.

The government has convened a meeting of senior officials of various departments and representatives of three-tier local bodies at the collectorate conference hall here on Friday to discuss the issue further.

Farmers of the Cheekkalloor, Eranelloor, Mecherry areas in Kaniyampetta and Panamaram grama panchayats under the aegis of Krishi Bhoomi Samrakshana Samiti is planning to take out a march and stage a dharna in front of the collectorate here on the same day in protest against the proposed project.

E.N. Gopalakrishnan, president of the Samiti told The Hindu that if the government went ahead with the proposed project, the villagers would launch a series of agitations against the move.

Though the project would affect farmers the most, their representatives had not been invited for the meeting, he said,

Traditional farmers

Many of the inhabitants of the area were traditional farmers and cultivate two crops, namely Nanja and Punja, on the land by utilising the water from the Cherupuzha River, a tributary of river Cauvery, he said .

Farmers feared that the project would affect the livelihood of nearly 380 families, including tribesmen, he added.

Tribes resettled

Many tribals were resettled here after they had been evacuated from the Nellarachal area for constructing the Karapuzha reservoir nearly two decades ago, he added. The government had to acquire nearly 337.6 acres of land including 169.28 acres of paddy field to set up the project, Mr. Gopalakrishnan said.

The project would also create serious ecological impact as the airport would be set up by filling mud at a height of seven metres on a paddy field stretched over 150 acres, Thomas Ambalavayal, secretary, Wayanad Prakruthi Samrakshana Samiti, said.

Many hillocks in the area would have to be bulldozed and it would pose a serious threat to the ecology, he added.

Mr. Thomas said it would wipe out all the natural water resources in the area, including 14 perennial streams, 21 ponds and two check dams across the Cherupuzha River, besides destroying 14 sacred groves.

No study taken up

The district administration had identified three sites for the purpose, but, finally it suggested setting up the airstrip at Cheekkalloor.

The Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation had tried to conduct a study but had to drop it after villagers protested.

The Kerala State Biodiversity Board had opposed the project as the site identified was ecologically sensitive.

Breeding ground

The project site harboured wetland and was a natural breeding ground for several species of birds. The area was also home to 308 tribal people who played a major role in agro-biodiversity conservation.

As much as 67.7 hectares of the 135.4 hectares identified was under paddy cultivation, with the rest under cash crops.

The project would be beneficial only for a few people and the land mafia, alleged Mr. Gopalakrishnan.

Nearly 25 hectares of land in the area had been purchased by a land mafia from Malappuram recently, Mr. Gopalakrishnan said.

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