Resentment is brewing at Thottappally against mineral sand-mining. Recently trucks transporting sand without proper documents were blocked by local fishermen and residents. They alleged that the Indian Rare Earths Limited (IREL) in collusion with private parties was illegally transporting sand beyond the permissible limit. According to Purakkad grama panchayat authorities, mining of mineral sand from Thottappally harbour is being carried out without the consent of the local body.
It all started a few years ago in the name of Thottappally harbour development. The sand deposit need to be dredged for developing the harbour. While the indiscriminate dredging continues unabated to this day, the fishing landing centre project remains on paper.
“At present there is no system to calculate the sand transported. The dredging has evolved as a major threat to the people living in the area. The sea erosion has already destroyed several houses. We will not allow the dredging to go on like this,” Purakkad grama panchayat vice president V. Sasikanthan told The Hindu .
Besides, mineral sand-mining at Thottappally harbour, the State government has now decided to remove sand from Thottappally leading channel and estuary for “ensuring smooth flow of water” from the Kuttanad region through Thottappally spillway.
“They are doing this in the name of preventing floods. But it is a smokescreen to loot rich mineral-sand deposits. Other than removing a sand bank close to estuary, they are also planning to cut several trees in the area. The move will only help to increase the intensity of sea erosion,” said, Saji Jayamohan of Green Roots Nature Conservation Forum.
Mr. Sasikanthan said that the panchayat was not against dredging of the leading channel but would not allow the removal of sand and cutting of trees at estuary. “Before taking the decision to dredge, the government, Irrigation Department and other concerned authorities should have at least discussed the issue with the panchayat. The local body has been totally sidelined. The present move will degrade the environment further and adversely impact the paddy cultivation in Kuttanad,” he said.
Meanwhile, the United Democratic Front (UDF) district committee has demanded an immediate halt to mining at Thottappally. “The previous UDF government had given permission to remove only the sand deposit that prevented anchoring of fishing boats at the harbour. However, two years ago the LDF government through Harbour Engineering Department granted IREL permission for permanent mining. This was done without carrying out environment impact assessment or approval of the panchayat. Now, the government has directed the Irrigation Department to deepen the estuary. This is the result of a nexus involving the government, IREL and mineral sand mafia,” UDF District chairman M. Murali said.