KOCHI: Some of the leading human rights and environment activists in the country led by Medha Patkar and Aruna Roy have written to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan urging him to review the Rs 67,000 crore Silver Line rail project from Kasaragod in north to Thiruvanananthapuram in the south as it would displace over 20,000 families or about 80,000 persons, besides causing immense environmental damage.
In a five-page letter to the CM, they said the project raises serious questions about the commitment of the government towards environment protection and people’s livelihoods -- both of which are part of a sustainable development framework. “The past experience of a small number of 326 families evicted for the Vallarpadam Container berth, a decade back, shows that even as on date only 76 families have been resettled, while the remaining 250 families are yet to be rehabilitated. Hence, the displacement and rehabilitation of almost 80,000 people for the current project should be minimised at all cost and at best, avoided,” the letter said.
The rail project will also use 132 km of paddy fields across the state. “Filling up of a large extent of paddy fields is likely to hinder the free flow and percolation of water, affecting the water table, leading to a drought-like condition. Scientific studies have confirmed the fact that wetlands act as one of the main sources for ground water recharge. Hence, filling up of wetlands in the guise of ‘development’ could prove detrimental in the long run,” it said.
Further, construction of underpass/over bridges in waterlogged/marshy areas or near rivers could lead to them being flooded, even with a small downpour. “The high boundary walls on both sides could affect rescue operations in the event of floods,” the letter said.KSDCL, the joint venture between the government of Kerala and Ministry of Railways, has not yet furnished specific details about the expected number of passengers the train service would cater to, the letter pointed out adding that the company has an obligation to substantiate its claims with fact and figures to clear the apprehensions about the project’s feasibility.Some of the other signatories of the memorandum include Kavita Srivastava of People’s Union of Civil Liberties, Sister Celia of Domestic Workers Union, Sandeep Pandey, Socialist Party of India, and C R Neelakandan, Prof Kusumam Joseph of NAPM, Kerala.