KERALA

Illegal granite quarrying rampant in Pathanamthitta

: Blatant violation of rules on environment conservation has posed a major threat to the eco-system in the hilly terrains of Pathanamthitta district.

Illegal quarrying, razing of hills, conversion of wetlands and low-lying paddy fields have taken its toll on the environment and climate of Central Kerala, known for its network of rivers and rivulets, hills, valleys, and paddy fields of Upper Kuttanad.

The directives of the Supreme Court of India and the Kerala High Court that granite quarrying should be permitted only on the basis of an environment impact assessment of the region are observed more in the breach.

The court had upheld the decision taken by the Union government in 2012, making environment impact assessment mandatory for all quarries of five acres and above. But, the quarry lobby, in collusion with a section of the official machinery, got to bypass the rule as well as the Court order by manipulating the land records.

V.N. Gopinatha Pillai, vice-president of the Kerala River Protection Council, blames the official machinery and local politicians for the illegal activities.

Thomas P. Thomas, academic and environmentalist, said there were reports of people operating granite quarries, by producing manipulated documents of various business establishments owned by them.

Water reservoirs

Giant rocks, regarded as nature’s water reservoirs, are fast becoming a thing of the past owing to indiscriminate exploitation of nature, says Dr. Thomas.

Drinking water has become a priced commodity in the district. The village-level protests launched by environment protection groups such as the Western Ghats Protection Council, Ponmala Samrakshana Samiti, Thudiyurulippara Grama Raksha Samiti, Kannimala Samrakshana Samiti, Chembanmudy Powra Samiti, etc., are turning into mass movements.

The Avolimala hill bordering the reserve forests at Chunkappara, Ponmala in Thottappuzhassery panchayat, and Thudiyurulippara in Pramadom grama panchayat in Konni are fast disappearing due to unabated granite quarrying.

Studies revealed that water flow from Ponmala into the Pampa has been considerably reduced in recent times. The Survey Department has found wanton encroachment of government land and indiscriminate rock quarrying at Thudiyurulippara.

Study report

In its study report submitted to the Kerala High Court in December, 2009, the State Bio-diversity Board unambiguously stated that the “granite quarry and crusher unit at Chunkappara have caused and continue to cause damage to the birds and wildlife in the forests lying close to it, affect the plants and the health of the people in its vicinity, hamper the natural springs, and irrevocably damage the ecology of the area, especially the micro water system.”