KERALA

Call for concerted move against Express Highway

KOCHI, AUG. 1. A people's convention organised by the anti-Express Highway Council here today called for a concerted move to defeat the access-controlled high-speed corridor project that is feared to split the State vertically.

Inaugurating the convention, M.K. Sanu, writer, said the Government was trying to sell the State for the benefit of two per cent of its people. Calling the Express Highway project monstrous, Prof. Sanu said the people could stall it by their concerted efforts just the way they did the moves to sell the rivers in the State.

Lurking dangers

Presenting the subject, C.R. Neelakandan, environmentalist, delineated the dangers that the project would bring about to Kerala's population. He said the 507-km-long highway would never alleviate the traffic congestions of the cities in the State. As the project requires 3.5 crore truckloads of quarry sand, 2.5 lakh truckloads of river sand and 6.5 lakh truckloads of granite stones and metal, it is feared to affect the State harmfully in several ways, he said.

Private investors who spend Rs. 1,100 crores (24 per cent) will have complete control over the highway, he said.

The project, according to him, would adversely affect the lives of thousands of people in over 100 panchayats across the State.

Presiding over the function, M.K. Prasad, environmentalist, said the State never wanted destructive development. A resolution moved by C.A. Vijayachandran, convener of the Jalasamrakshana Samithy, asked the Government to conduct an environment impact assessment (EIA) and a public hearing on the project. The EIA and public hearing were mandatory for any project that costs Rs. 100 crores, he said.

Detailed report

Mr. Vijayachandran demanded that a detailed project report be presented before the public immediately.

The Government should also listen to the opinion of grama sabhas and panchayats, he said.

Charles George, CPI (ML) Red Flag leader, said by taking up a project like Express Highway, the Government was trying to undo what the State did for its people during the past 50 years. "Kerala is once again going to be divided," Mr. George said, calling upon the people to realise the evil effects of globalisation.

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