Mookkunnimala Quarries: Aggrieved Residents to Intensify Stir
The strong agitation against quarrying at Mookkunnimala in the capital district has gained momentum with the people in the Pallichal Panchayat firm on their demand for the closure of the quarries, which have been causing environmental and health hazards.
The residents in the panchayat have been engaged in a continuous struggle for the last several months even as the panchayat authorities maintain that quarrying can be stopped once the departments of Mining and Geology and Revenue as well as the Pollution Control Board stop giving licences to the quarries.
Though the Mookkunnimala Samrakshana Samithi (MSS) has been staging a protest for the last many years, its members have now decided to go in for a widespread agitation, including a sit-in in front of the Secretariat, until the quarry units are shut down. They had staged a sit-in in front of the panchayat office during the first week of this month, demanding revocation of licences for quarrying units which had been renewed. Some of the Samithi leaders had even boycotted the Lok Sabha elections over the issue.
Stating that they were for the closure of the quarries, MSS convenor Nanappan Nair said that the struggle would continue till the last quarry stopped its activities. ‘’Almost 70 per cent of the hill is gone. It is high time that the remaining hill is protected,’’ he told Express.
Nanappan Nair also said that the local residents are in constant fear of being hit by flying rocks set off by the blasts. Though the residents have registered complaints with the authorities, these have not been heard allegedly owing to a nexus between the quarry mafia, politicians and the officials concerned, Nanappan Nair alleged.
‘’The District Collector has said that he will be visiting the region within a week. We hope for a positive action. We will continue the agitation and block all the lorries that ply from the quarries if stringent measures are not taken against the units,’’ he said.
Madhusoodanan Nair, a Samithi activist and Kerala Sasthra Sahitya Parishad Pravachambalam unit president, said that the authorities are not even implementing the High Court order that had directed to stop quarry activities in the hills. Blaming the panchayat for renewing the licence to the quarries, he said that all the political parties are in one way or the other supporting the quarry lobby as they are getting enough funds from the latter.
Stating that a decision has been taken to intensify the agitation if action is not taken at the earliest, Madhusoodanan Nair said that all the people in the district should come forward to protect the hill.
Meanwhile, stressing that the panchayat was for the closure of the quarries, panchayat president K Rakesh said that the panchayat had only given operational clearance to the companies but the licence was given by the Mining and Geology Department. ‘’Once the departments of Mining and Geology and Revenue and the Pollution Control Board stop giving licences, then all the activities can be stopped,’’ he said. Moreover, quarrying in the area has also posed a threat to the Army’s shooting range and Defence officials had raised the issue with the authorities long way back.