Kinfra eyes paddy field, stirs row

Greens agitated as the project requires filling wetland

KOCHI: Eight years after people of Karumaloor successfully resisted an attempt to take over nearly 350 acres, including paddy field and residential areas, by INKEL, another government agency has set sights on 300 acres five kilometres away near Aluva UC College comprising mostly paddy land.

Joint secretary (revenue) issued orders to Ernakulam district collector on March 31, 2015, for negotiated purchase of the land for the State-run KINFRA to set up an industrial development zone.

Environmentalists say this is an onslaught on the environment and amounts to filling wetland as 90 percent of the 300 acres is usable paddy land, part of which is still being used, while the remaining unused portion has been mined to take sand.

Former Alangad block panchayat president A. Bhaskaran, who was in the forefront of resisting the INKEL, said farmers should be encouraged to restart cultivation in unused paddy fields so that at least the existing areas could be protected.

“Our cultivable land has been reduced from 8 lakh hectares to 3 lakh hectares in the last 15 years. There is a strong mafia to convert paddy land for other purposes. The relevant Acts are also being circumvent in many ways. The joint secretary issued the directive without any study,” Mr Bhaskaran said.

KINFRA managing director G. C. Gopala Pillai said he was unaware of the nitty-gritty of the proposal came up two years ago, before he assumed charge.

However, interestingly, the new government order itself reveals that “as per another GO on March 5, 2014, the government has constituted a State Level Monitoring Committee to take decisions regarding land acquisition during the transition period in view of rules under the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 being framed” Under the Wetland Protection Act of 2008, the power of government to grant exemption is defined as follows: “Notwithstanding anything contained in Section 3, the government may grant exemption from the provisions of this Act, if such conversion or reclamation is essential for any public purpose.”

It also stipulates that no exemption shall be granted by the government, unless the local level monitoring committee has recommended the conversion.

However with the new NDA government giving new leeway to the 2013 Act, environmentalists are apprehensive about the KINFRA move.

( Source : dc )
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