THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Agastyavanam Biosphere Conservation Forum has intensified its protest against the proposed biomedical waste management plant of IMA and has said it will do everything to ensure the ecological equilibrium in the area. “We will go ahead with the public agitation and plan to approach authorities concerned to ensure the plan is dropped,” said Shiras Khan, chairman, Agastyavanam Biosphere Conservation Forum.
The decision to start a biomedical waste management plant near the core reserve forest area drew flak from all sectors and an action council was formed to fight for the preservation of the area. The designated site falls in Peringamala grama panchayat which has been designated as ecologically sensitive by the Kasthurirangan Committee report. Widespread protests rose against the proposed plant since the site lies very close to the Agastyavanam Biosphere reserve and is hemmed in by forests on three sides.
“This is a highly fragile area which lies between three hills and assumes significance since any tinkering here could unbalance the rich biodiversity,” said Shiras Khan, chairman, Agastyavanam Biosphere Conservation Forum. “Around 6.5 acres is freshwater wetland. This wetland is a contiguous part of one of the largest wetland bodies you can see in the world. The area has to be protected if the ecological equilibrium is to be maintained,” he added.
The IMA plans to set up its bio-waste management plant in 3 acres of the 9 acre-land it owns near the forest. “It has been planned scientifically and the plant will not cause any ecological damage. We have been running the plant in Palakkad for the past several years and it is considered a model across the world. The public needs to understand it is being done for them,” said Sulphi N, state secretary, IMA. “We have received sanction from the Pollution Control Board. We are awaiting the approval of the environmental impact authority,” he added. A misconception is being spread among the public. Rumours like it will lead to a disaster like Vilapilshala are doing rounds. But this is a highly eco-friendly project. Moreover, it will generate several job opportunities,” he said.
“Although technically the land is privately owned, it shares boundaries with the reserve forest on three fronts and as such we have filed our objection over the plant with the nodal officer. The plant will severely impact biodiversity and I have suggested the project should not be approved. Although we had filed our objection, we weren’t intimated about the public hearing,” said D Ratheesh, DFO, Thiruvananthapuram.
The Pollution Control Board has called for a public hearing which will be held in Peringamala grama panchayat office on Wednesday in the presence of the District Collector.
“We intend to meet the ministers regarding this and also participate in the public hearing,” he added. “We will also present a study report detailing the ecological significance of the area to the departments concerned,” he added. District panchayath president V K Madhu said until now no approval has been given to the plant by the civic body. “The IMA hasn’t approached us in this regard. I will be visiting the land and in any case, a decision will be taken only after conducting the necessary studies,” said Madhu.
The members of the action committee allege it has been falsely stated in the environmental impact study report that there is no settlement adjacent to the land. “We will approach the court to repeal the affiliation of Annamalai University which conducted the environmental impact study,” said Shiras Khan.
“As many as five adivasi settlements lie within 1 km of the proposed plant. The land which was contiguous with the Myristica swamps was cleared for cultivation during the reign of the Travancore kings. The land is presently owned by the IMA. The region shares boundaries on three sides by reserve forest and needs to be conserved” said Peringamala grama panchayat biodiversity management committee coordinator M Kamarudeen.