MoEF urged to cancel clearance for airport project

February 19, 2012 05:06 pm | Updated 05:06 pm IST - PATHANAMTHITTA

The Pampa Parirakshana Samiti (PPS), a Kozhencherry-based prominent environmental group that has been campaigning for the cause of Pampa since the past two decades, have called upon the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to take immediate steps to cancel the clearance granted for the proposed greenfield airport project at Aranmula.

In a letter to the secretary, MoEF, the PPS general secretary, N.K. Sukumaran Nair, alleged that the clearance granted by the Environmental Appraisal Committee (F No. 10-51/2010-IA) for the KGS Aranmula Greenfield Airport project was based on certain “undisclosed and incorrect information, without considering the ground reality.’’

The eco group say that the project area is a “wetland and a riparian floodplain area of river Pampa and a fragile eco system.’’

Wetland conversion

According to Mr Nair, the proposed project site is a paddy land and it require conversion of as much as 347.556 acre of paddy fields for the airport project which was not at all mentioned in the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report submitted to the MoEF. Conversion and reclamation of wetlands for non-wetland use should be prohibited as per the prevailing rules, he said.

The letter further states that the small stream mentioned in the EIA report is the origin of Kozhithode stream, a tributary of river Pampa that empties out into the Pampa at Edayaranmula. This stream is a major water source for the agricultural lands in Aranmula, Kidangannoor and Mallappuzhasserry villages and for the people residing in the surrounding villages.

Paddy land and Wetland Conservation Act

As per the definitions of the Kerala Conservation of Paddy land and Wetland Act, 2008, “paddy land means all types of land in the State where paddy is cultivated atleast once in a year or suitable for paddy cultivation, but uncultivated and left fallow, and includes its allied constructions like bunds, drainage channels, ponds and canals.’’

The PPS leader alleged that the environmental clearance has been given to the proposed airport project with some conditions, disregarding the genuine requests and reservations raised by the samiti and grossly against the essential spirit of the Kerala Conservation of Paddy land and Wetland Act.

Illegal conversion

Mr Nair said a large extent of the wetlands have got illegally converted, in gross violation of all the prevailing laws of the land and without obtaining any permission from the authorities concerned.

He said these wetlands, along with the Kozhithode stream were regarded as the lifeline of Aranmula and surrounding villages for their major role in the ground water replenishment as well as recharging. Blocking of the Kozhithode stream, which is also a natural flood escape route linking the wetlands with the river Pampa, will lead to irreparable damage to the environment, ecology and the bio-diversity of the region, he adds.

The PPS leader further urged the MoEF to send an appraisal committee comprising experts to Aranmula and assess the ground reality on a war footing and to get a more realistic environmental appraisal of the proposed airport project.

He has also sought steps for blacklisting the private consultants that have prepared the EIA report on the Aranmula airport project and had allegedly misinformed the MoEF on the factual position.

Letter to Chief Minister

In another letter to Chief Minister, Oommen Chandy, the PPS leader said the private company that has been campaigning for a Rs 2000-crore international airport project at Aranmula has categorically stated in its project report submitted before the MoEF that they are planning to construct the airport in two phases. The first phase involves development works worth Rs 81.1836 crore and the second phase involving works to the tune of Rs 125.4383, making the total project cost only Rs 206.6219 crore.

Heritage sites

The letter says that the airport project, if implemented, would destroy various heritage sites having close links with various places of worship that include the centuries’ old Sree Parthasarathy Temple, one of the 101 Tirupatis in the whole world. Moreover, Aranmula has been identified as a heritage village by the United Nations Development Programme.

The PPS leader also called for a comprehensive inquiry into various aspects of the proposed airport project that include the illegal conversion of paddy fields, financial sources of the parties involved in it, circumstances that led to obtaining of various clearances for the project, declaration of 500 acres of land as industrial area by the Industries department, etc.

Mr Nair called upon the Chief Minister to take immediate steps to revive paddy cultivation in the fertile Aranmula puncha which would strengthen the State’s food security.

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