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Residents to intensify protest for protecting Ayiravilli Para

Ayiravilli Para Samrakshana Samiti started a hunger strike in July 15, 2022, and it claims that despite the mass protest, no action has been taken by the authorities

January 22, 2023 07:45 pm | Updated January 26, 2023 10:04 am IST - KOLLAM

With their relay hunger strike completing 222 days, residents of Elamadu and Velinallur panchayats have decided to intensify the agitation for protecting Ayiravilli Para, a biodiversity hotspot that is spread over 62 acres.

While the area is home to more than 100 species of plants and animals, quarrying over the years has taken its toll on the people and the ecosystem. Ayiravilli Para Samrakshana Samiti started the hunger strike in July 15, 2022, and despite the mass protest, no action was taken by the authorities. “N.K. Premachandran, MP, had raised the issue in Parliament, demanding that the rock should be protected as a biodiversity heritage site. Following that, National Biodiversity Authority has directed the State Biodiversity Board to take necessary steps,” says P.R. Santhosh, a member of Velinallur panchayat.

Ayiravalli is not a mere rock as the forest above it is a unique biodiverse ecosystem. It also accommodates a centuries-old place of worship and several sacred groves. Though there were a total of five rocks including Pothuveena Para and Chembuvari Para, at present only Ayiravalli remains. “What we have now is huge quarry pits, water bombs that are around 200 feet deep. They will explode if there is any natural calamity and hundreds of families will be affected,” says P.J. Chacko, retired school teacher and protest council leader. He adds that several houses in the area have developed cracks as a result of intensive quarrying.

“Around 64 residents have died of cancer while many others are suffering from respiratory and skin diseases,” he says. The residents of nearby panchayats are also struggling with recurrent crop raiding by wild boars, porcupines, monkeys and peacocks. They believe that the destruction of the natural habitat over the years is the reason for increasing wildlife incursions and the situation is getting from bad to worse. They also feel that Ayiravilli is an ideal site to be included in the proposed biodiversity circuit to tap its tourism potential.

“Though State Biodiversity Board held a sitting this week, the process will take more than six months according to the officials. We want the authorities to stop issuing quarrying permits and there should not be any delay in protecting the rock. We are planning to organise a Collectroate march and dharna on January last week demanding immediate steps to address the issue,” adds Mr. Chacko.

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