Project will lead to depletion of groundwater levels, says study
The Salim Ali Foundation has urged the State government to drop the
proposed KGS Green Field Airport Limited project at Aranmula.
Releasing to the media on Tuesday the report of a study conducted by
the SAF on the possible ecological, social and economic impact of the
project, foundation chairman and former head of the Kerala State
Biodiversity Board V.S. Vijayan said, “The project will destroy 400
acres of wetland. It will indirectly affect 3,500 acres of wetland. On
February 24, 2011, the region was marked as an industrial area. There
was a tearing hurry to do so before the Assembly elections.”
An expert appraisal committee has recommended to the Ministry of
Environment and Forests that the project should be cleared. The MoEF
has now sought the State government’s comments on the project.
The foundation criticised the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA)
conducted by Enviro Care India Private Limited.
“The EIA team is suspected to have not even visited the site. The EIA
is silent on the impact of reclaiming 400 acres of wetland and paddy
fields. It should have specified the quantity and source of sand
required for this. A preliminary assessment shows that 96 lakh tonnes
of sand is needed. The project will need 7.55 kld (kilo litres per
day) of water. The EIA report says the requirement will be met by the
company’s own borewells and municipal water supply. There will be
serious exploitation of groundwater. With the destruction of wetland,
groundwater in much of the area will not be re-charged. The EIA has
not made efforts to document the biodiversity of the region,” Dr.
The foundation’s study has recorded 212 species of plants in the
region, of which 27 are endemic to the Western Ghats, 110 are
important for its medicinal properties and 88 are wetland species.
About 60 species of fishes have been found in the region, 42 per cent
of which is endemic to the Western Ghats, 6.6 per cent endangered,
five per cent vulnerable and 48 per cent of high commercial value. The
study has found 80 species of birds in the region. An additional 85
species have been recorded by the Kottayam Nature Society.
Dr. Vijayan said the wetlands would yield intangible benefits to the
tune of Rs.314 crore to Rs. 419 crore annually even when it was not
farmed. “If paddy cultivation is restored and fish farming is
launched, the region will yield benefits to the tune of Rs.335 crore
to Rs.440 crore annually. Paddy cultivation in much of the region has
been stopped. Do not blame it on farmers. I cannot understand why the
government wants to develop an airport instead of promoting paddy
cultivation. The area under paddy cultivation in the State has shrunk
from 8 lakh hectares in 1975 to 2.84 lakh hectares now. Of about 45
lakh tonnes of paddy needed by the State annually, hardly 6 lakh
tonnes is being locally cultivated,” he said.
The Kerala Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetland Act, 2008, mentions
applications for filling of paddy land for public purposes. According
to the Act, ‘public purpose’ means “purposes for the schemes
undertaken or financed by the Centre or State governments, government
or quasi-government institutions, local self-government institutions,
statutory bodies and other schemes as may be specified by the
government from time to time.”
“A private airport project does not come under the ‘public purpose’
category. It benefits only a minority. Moreover, does Aranmula need an
airport when Thiruvananthapuram and Kochi airports are nearby?
Wetlands belong to the people and they serve a public purpose. No
government should sacrifice this public property for the benefit of a
few,” Dr. Vijayan said.