Proposal for quarrying granite at Kochethupara

The reported move to set up a magazine (to stock explosives for blasting rocks) in the close vicinity of forests at Kochethupara in the Vadasserikkara forest range under the Ranni forest division has kicked up a controversy.

District Collector P. Venugopal told The Hindu on Thursday that he has denied clearance for the proposed magazine on the basis of a report by Ranni divisional forest officer (DFO) R. Kamalahar. The district administration, he says, cannot permit any activity in the vicinity of the reserve forests as it would directly or indirectly affect the fauna and flora.

According to Forest Department sources, a private party submitted an application before the Collector in 2010 seeking permission for quarrying granite from a private ‘patta' land lying close to the forests at Kochethupara. The local people opposed the move citing environmental problems. But, sideling the public concern, the State Pollution Control Board (PCB) gave its no-objection certificate for the proposed granite quarry. However, the DFO did not favour the proposal on the basis of a report submitted by the forest range officer concerned. And the Chief Conservator of Forests endorsed the DFO's decision.

Another attempt

The private party approached the district administration again in 2011 seeking permission for a quarry at Kochethupara. And the Collector directed the Forest, Police, and the Fire and Rescue Services departments to submit reports on the same.

Though the police and the Fire and Rescue Services gave their no-objection certificate for the project, the Forest Department opposed the proposal for quarrying stating that it would not permit any such activity in the close vicinity of the forests.

Meanwhile, it is learnt that the quarry people approached the district administration through another ‘route' for setting up the magazine. They reportedly approached the Forest Minister as well, who, in turn, referred the matter to the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests.

The Ranni DFO, who reached Kochethupara to conduct a spot inspection a month ago, was blocked by nearly 200 women protesters. Besides raising the hazardous environmental problems it could create, the local people were wary of drinking water problems and air, water, and noise pollution in the locality.

The DFO took the protesters to the spot and made it clear that he was there only to conduct a site inspection.

Action council leaders allege that the ‘quarry lobby' has been exerting political pressure on the Collector and the government to obtain clearance for the magazine and the quarry project.