The Chembanmudimala, a hill about 3,825 ft above mean sea level, is fast fading into history like its mythical protector, Shaktan Velan, thanks to two illegal granite quarries and crusher units functioning in this environmentally fragile hill tract over the past nine years.
The people of Chembanoly and Vakamukku on the peripheries of the quarries fear indiscriminate blasting and crushing of rocks can render this scenic, fertile and evergreen hills a mere mythological entity.
They allege that the quarries are functioning at Naranammoozhy panchayat with the connivance of political leaders and a section of officials.
The people, under the aegis of an action council, have launched an agitation against the quarries.
The operation of the quarries and the movement of trucks have become a threat to hundreds of households, the majority poor working class people.
Action council leaders Shaji Pathalil and Bose Varghese Kaithala said the villagers resorted to direct action against the apathy of people’s representatives and officials to their demand to shut down the quarries.
As many as 2,000 people, the majority of them women attached to nearly 100 Kudumbasree units, took out a march on March 21 and forcibly shut down the quarries.
Talking to The Hindu , Naranammoozhy panchayat vice-president Rajan Neeramplackal said the local body had not given clearance for operating the quarries, Kavumkal Granites and Manimalethu Granites, as they had failed to produce certain mandatory documents.
The legal opinion received by the panchayat on an application seeking clearance by Kavumkal Granites at Chembanoly was that the local body “should not permit operation of the quarry without production of the environmental clearance issued by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests”. Rules say quarries in more than five hectares could be permitted to operate only if the environmental clearance certificate is obtained from the MoEF.
Peelipose Thomas, AICC member and former State Planning Board member, said the quarries were functioning illegally violating the directives of the grama panchayat and the grama sabha.
Mr. Thomas said the district administration should take steps to shut down the units.
He demanded action against officials for their failure to act against the illegal quarries in the past nine years.
Anu Samadhanathil, Saji Kottarathil, and Shibu P.J, action council leaders, alleged that the quarries continued to be their bad neighbour, despite their repeated plea to check its operations.
As many as 100 giant trucks ply on the Chembanmudy-Chembanoly panchayat road impacting the population with their noise, traffic and emissions, they alleged.
Karanamkuthithodu, the once perennial natural stream that originated from the Chembanmudimala, is dry during summer as it had been partially converted by the quarry lobby, they alleged.
“Moreover, it carries waste from the quarry to the villages downstream and to the Pampa during monsoon,” they said.
The hazardous silica dust from the quarry is a major health hazard. Cases of cancer as well as skin and lung ailments are on the rise at Chembaoly and Vakamukku areas, said Anu.
“The agitation to protect the Chembanmudymala and the villages is a people’s movement that seldom trust political leaders who have been deceiving us all these years. Women are in the forefront of the agitation and there is no question of permitting any more quarrying here,” they said.