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Land conversion deepens water crisis

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ECO HAZARD: Illegal conversion on in a vast expanse of paddy fields at Aranmula in Pathanamthitta district on Saturday. —
ECO HAZARD: Illegal conversion on in a vast expanse of paddy fields at Aranmula in Pathanamthitta district on Saturday. —

Staff Reporter

Eco groups raise concern over official apathy

PATHANAMTHITTA: The United Nations has designated March 22 as World Water Day with a view to raising public awareness on the deepening global water crisis.

Conversion of vast stretches of paddy fields and wetlands in the name of development and indiscriminate sand-mining are leading to drastic depletion of the groundwater table and acute drinking water crisis in different parts of the State.

Lack of access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation is a major cause of concern in the modern context.

Paddy fields are vanishing by the day in Central Travancore. Not less than 150 acres of paddy fields at Aranmula were illegally converted in the name of an airport project.

Collector T.T. Antony says, to his knowledge, no sanction has been granted for paddy field conversion at Aranmula and the matter will be looked into with all seriousness.

Principal Agriculture Officer Jose Joseph said steps would be taken to revive cultivation in the Aranmula paddy fields as part of the government’s food safety programme soon.

Environmentalists, social activists and nature-lovers have expressed concern over the attitude of officials towards anti-environment activities taking place in Central Travancore.

T.N. Ramakrishna Kurup, N.K. Sukumaran Nair, V.N. Gopinatha Pillai, Dr Thomas P.Thomas, A.Ayyappankutty and Dr Benzy Mathew, leaders of various eco-groups, called upon the district authorities to take steps to fix the responsibility for illegal land conversions taking place at different parts of the district.

Mr. Ayyappankutty, who is the Bharatiya Karshaka Morcha State secretary, alleged corruption behind the illegal conversion of paddy fields at Aranmula.As per a clarification (No.C4-9529/09/LDis) issued by the Deputy Collector (Land Revenue), the so-called Aranmula Aviation Limited had not submitted any request or report seeking permission for setting up an airport at Aranmula, he said.

He called for an inquiry into the financial sources of those behind the project that had altered the biodiversity of the region.

Paddy fields act as a water reservoir and contribute to the recharge of groundwater. They also act as a reservoir of rainwater and protect the neighbouring area from floods, says Mr. Sukumaran Nair.

The riverbeds of the Pampa, Manimala and Achenkovil rivers have gone down by four to six metres along many stretches due to indiscriminate sand-mining over the past one decade. This had resulted in drastic depletion of the groundwater table affecting wells in the area, Dr. Thomas said.

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