February 13, 2012
New Delhi, February 9 : Kerala, a state with a coast length of 590 Kms and width between 11 to 121 Kms, which already has three international airports (Thiruvananthpuram, Kozhikode, Cochin) and plans to build two more at Kanoor and Aranmula points towards something extremely wrong with the development planning. All doesn’t seem well within the State, known for its participatory development planning model as being touted through various studies.
The Chennai-based KGS Group, promoter of the proposed KGS International Greenfield Airport at Aranmula got the clearance after Kerala Industries department declared 500 acres of land spread across the Mallappuzhasserry, Aranmula and Kidangannur villages as industrial area. The clearance was granted invoking the provisions in the Kerala Industrial Single Window Clearance Boards and Industrial Township Area Development Act 1999. The Act passed in 1999, usurps the powers of the local self-government institutions and is aimed at bypassing the otherwise mandatory clearances required for various projects from the panchayats, municipalities, Town Planning Department and Development Authorities in the land notified as industrial area. As per section -18 of the Act, those places notified as industrial area would not only remain outside the purview of the master plan or zonal plan but also remain excluded from any legislation passed by the State Assembly. This is completely unacceptable.
The Coca Cola factory at Plachimada had managed to get clearance by utilising the single window clearance system of the same Act. It is unfortunate that the government has failed to take any lesson from the decade long struggle of the Plachimada Coca-Cola Virudha Samara Samithi against the Coca Cola factory. Even though the Kerala Assembly passed with consensus the ‘Plachimada Coca-Cola Victims’ Relief and Compensation Claims Special Tribunal Bill, 2011, it has had no impact on the development planning and need for establishing the rights of the Gram Sabha.
The proposed airport on the model of ‘Aerotropolis’ is completely unnecessary since Kerala already has enough Airports. Records available with the State Planning Board show that Kerala lost over 5,00,000 hectares of paddy fields between 1980 and 2007 but has failed to add more land under cultivation.
NAPM demands that Government should take a strong resolve not to permit any more conversion of paddy field or wetland in the larger interests of ensuring the very existence of the land of Kerala. The wanton conversion of wetlands and paddy fields taking place in the name of ‘development’ at Aranmula for the ‘Private Aranmula Greenfield International Airport’ should be brought to a halt and Government should take over all illegally converted land for agriculture purposes and cancel the project immediately.
NAPM stands with the people of Aranmula and supports the struggle against proposed Airport. We also urge that the laws like Kerala Industrial Single Window Clearance Boards and Industrial Township Area Development Act 1999 be repealed since they usurp the constitutionally granted rights of Gram Sabha. Gram Sabhas have the sole right to plan development in their area as per the 73rd and 74th Amendments of the Constitution and Kerala government must respect it.
Medha Patkar, Gabriele Dietrich, Prafulla Samantara, Sandeep Pandey, Goe Josh, Hussain Master, George Jacob, Madhuresh Kumar