The Kerala State Biodiversity Board (KSBB) has warned against conversion of wetlands for the Aranmula airport project, as it will have serious environmental and ecological implications.
A report prepared by a KSBB team, on the basis of the third report submitted by the Kerala Legislative Committee on Environment, categorises the land identified for the airport as a biodiversity-rich wetland.
It says 400 of the 500 acres identified for the project is part of the 3,500-acre Aranmula Puncha (paddy field). A major stream, Valiyathode, that flows through the puncha is a tributary of the Pampa and carries the water collected in the puncha during the monsoon.
The runway of the airport has been planned across this stream and 70 acres of the puncha has been converted razing an adjoining hill, Karimaruthumala.
It requires razing of many hills for converting the entire land required for the project, which will lead to biodiversity degradation and groundwater depletion. The report says the Aranmula Puncha remains waterlogged through out the year. The paddy field serves as a water storage area of the wetland and land conversion will hit water availability.
Conversion of even a major portion of the Aranmula Puncha, where water spreads and flows evenly during the rainy season, will affect the wetland system, the report says highlighting problems of water-logging as well as water scarcity in store for the region.Fish species
Studies show that the Pampa river basin is home to about 60 fish species. The streams in the Aranmula Puncha are rich in organisms which are part of the food chain of fishes. Conversion of paddy land will break this chain, besides destroying the breeding grounds of fishes.
There are allegations that the government and the private airport company have misled the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) concealing the facts in the KSBB report.
“Aranmula has been witnessing a mass movement against the project. Ironically, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and his Cabinet colleagues are firm on implementing the project, disregarding its impact on the people and the ecosystem,” say P.Prasad, K.Ananthagopan, and Kummanam Rajashekharan, leaders of the CPI, CPI(M), and the Aranmula Heritage Village Action Council respectively.
Congress leaders V.M. Sudheeran, T.N. Prathapan, V.D. Satheesan, Peelipose Thomas, and K.K. Royson and Government Chief Whip P.C. George too had taken a strong stance against the project.
Mr. Prasad said the action council would take up the KSBB report with the MoEF, seeking a review its decision granting environment clearance for the project.