Residents intensify stir against ‘mineral sand-mining’ at Thottappally

Protesters allege large-scale mining in the guise of flood mitigation, say 3 grama panchayats in severe danger

June 12, 2021 02:59 pm | Updated 03:00 pm IST - ALAPPUZHA

A file photo of sand being dredged at Thottappally.

A file photo of sand being dredged at Thottappally.

Protest is brewing against ‘mineral sand-mining’ at the Thottappally coast in Alappuzha. The indefinite relay satyagraha being staged under the aegis of the Karimanal Ghanana Virudha Ekopana Samithi entered its third day on Saturday.

Suresh Kumar S., chairman of the Samithi said, the indiscriminate mineral sand-mining could wipe out three grama panchayats — Purakkad, Thrikkunnapuzha, and Arattupuzha — from the map in the near future. “It is an ecologically fragile area. Mineral sand-mining should not be allowed in public, private or as joint ventures in fragile areas. While people are forced to remain home because of the lockdown, mining and transportation of mineral-rich sand continue unabated at Thottappally,” Mr. Kumar said.

Sand transportation

After a period of lull, removal and transportation of mineral-rich sand from Thottappally ‘pozhi’ (sandbar at sea mouth) was resumed last month. According to officials, the sand is removed to ensure smooth flow of floodwaters from Kuttanad into the sea. The sand is being transported to Kerala Minerals and Metals Ltd. (KMML) and Indian Rare Earths Ltd. (IREL).

Mr. Kumar said the Samithi was not against dredging of the channel and removal of sand from the pozhi in a limited way, which is an annual process. However, it was opposed to the transportation of mineral-rich sand to KMML and IREL’s units at Chavara. Local people, especially fishers, allege that the government is engaged in large-scale mineral sand-mining in the guise of flood mitigation.

Threat of coastal erosion

The coastline is prone to severe coastal erosion. A large number of people in Thottappally and nearby areas were displaced when their houses were destroyed in sea erosion. Residents fear the sand-mining would prove detrimental to those living along the shorelines from Valiazheekal to Punnapra.

550 trees felled last year

In 2020, around 550 trees on a plot in the possession of the Irrigation Department near the Thottappally pozhi were cut down by invoking various sections under the Disaster Management Act. It was said the trees were felled to widen and deepen the mouth of the pozhi. The government further allowed the KMML to extract two lakh cubic metres of sand.

“The KMML and IREL have so far transported 10 lakh cubic metres of sand from Thottappally. Apart from destroying the coast, indiscriminate removal of sand will result in the intrusion of saltwater into Kuttanad,” Mr. Kumar added.

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