KOLLAM: Alappad Village, once spread over 89 sqkm between the TS Canal and Arabian Sea, has dwindled to just 7.6 sqkm in 60 years primarily due to mining, but as it continues unabated, the local people fear they would lose their last piece of land soon.
The residents of Alappad, located 10 km north of Kollam, assemble at a makeshift protest venue near the village office every day to carry out a relay hunger strike started by ‘Karimanal Khananavirudha Janakeeya Samarasamithi’ on November 1 last year against mining. As it passed 71 days on Thursday, the protest has received attention on social media, with many organisations and prominent personalities extending support.
“Our land is going to disappear if we don’t stop mining at the earliest. We’ll fight till we get justice,” said Rohini, a protest council member.
The ‘Save Alappad, Stop Mining’ campaign has gained traction on social media with several film stars joining it.
The Indian Rare Earths Ltd (IRE), a public sector company, has been in charge of mining. Their work has narrowed the land strip between TS Canal and Arabian Sea to just 33 meters as close to 20,000 hectares of land in 81.5 sqkm have been claimed by the sea in six decades.
Villagers blame 60 years of IRE mining
Notwithstanding the arguments of climate change for sea erosion, a phenomenon witnessed right throughout Kerala’s coasts, the villagers blame IRE’s 60 years’ mining for the present state.Around 5,000 families became landless and had to be rehabilitated due to mining. Among the displaced include fishermen who lost their livelihood as a result of relocation.
The protesters say mining has also resulted in the vanishing of a sea phenomenon called mud bank, which helps in the spawning of fish as well as protection of land from sea erosion.Protest group’s chairman K Chandradas said mining, if allowed to continue, would have a devastating effect on the area and its people.
“It’s not just a case of Alappad alone as Arattupuzha, Thrikunnapuzha and Purakad in Alappuzha district too will be completely destroyed if we allow mining to continue,” said Chandradas. “There’ll be no national waterways on the western shore and there’ll be sea water incursion in Upper Kuttanad and Onattukara.”
He cited various studies conducted by the Centre for Earth Science Studies, National Institute of Interdisciplinary Science and Technology, T M Mahadevan Committee, Trivikramji Committee to vindicate the villagers’ stand.According to him, the company has violated National Mineral Policy, Mines & Minerals (Development & Regulation) Act, The Mineral Conservation and Development Rules, Coastal Regulation Zone, The Environment (Protection) Act, The Kerala Conservation of Paddy Land and Wet Land Act, 2008.
Min dismisses allegations
Fisheries Minister J Mercykutty Amma had dismissed the allegations, saying the concerns were exaggerated and the groyne project would stop sea erosion. But Alappad panchayat member Cibi Boney said the state government is ignoring protestors and supporting black sand mining business.
A senior IRE officer, on condition of anonymity, said the protest was the private mining lobby’s conspiracy to destroy the public sector company. “The rehabilitation offered by IRE at Puthanthura in Chavara is a model for the country,” he said.