Who Compliments Whom? The Fall Out Of Vizhinjam Port
14 November, 2015
The capital city of Kerala, Thiruvananthapuram saw the setting up of a series of hoardings in the first week of December that drew attention to the splendid achievement of a long awaited dream- it had pictures of many who had sweated and struggled to make this possible but the best and most striking part of the text was the real “bottom line” which said Compliments- Adani. It is anybody’s guess that the Adanis and Ambanis of the world would not die of modesty and austerity. But we are in God’s own country, a modest entrepreneur with an asset of Rs 25,000 crore is humbly giving his compliments for having pushed aside many global investors and bagged the 5000 cr investment in the mega project.
It is common knowledge that for the past few years the ruling party in the State, the Governmental machinery have been bending over and grinning from ear to ear with the sheer proximity of such a giant as Adani. The Left had welcomed the project as long it is not given to private investors and it is too early to forget the long drawn out dharna demanding the implementation of the project. One fact looms large amidst the Latin Catholic Church’s wishy washy stance demanding the just rehabilitation and compensation, the Vizhinjam Thekkumbagom Muslim Jammath’s huge rally raising anxieties about how dredging operations will affect the mussel beds in Mulloor beach along with anomalies in the list of beneficiaries in the Rehabilitation and Compensation package. This is the fact that we all are COMPLIMENTING THE DEVELOPMENT that will bring money, employment, roads and huge real estate investment apart from the joy of feeling we are closer to Singapore or some such international port where huge containers will bring prosperity.
In this self aggrandizement and mythical reality that DEVELOPMENT hallucinogen gives us we often forget to compliment the real losers in this path. The Chief Minister benignly said as in a pastoral statement that the sacrifice and loss of the community will never be forgotten by the nation ( Remember Jawaralal Nehru’s Temples of Progress ( Bhakra Nangal dam) Indira Gandhi’s Buddha’s smile (Pokhran) and the more recent A.P.J. Abdul Kalam’s ( Koodankulam) statements that we all heard with thrill and goose pimples in the comfort zones of our drawing rooms and assured pay packets and perks. The Chief Secretary apologized to the 4200 trees, birds and butterflies which would be destroyed as rapid four laning has started on the highway to roll out the red carpet. The people of Vellarada have been assured jobs and other amenities if they remain silent and compliment the 2 big quarry lobbies who are all set to blast the hills to transport to the ocean and make more land to compliment and appease the insatiable land greed of the investors.
Who does not Compliment Whom?
The deeper observations and analysis of this much lauded journey along the path of development that Kerala Government has embarked upon based on “ I scratch your back, you do mine” are shocking. While compliments are thrown in gay abandon ( M.P Dr.Sashi Tharoor remarking that Gadkari’s statement of a Rs 790 crore Viability Gap Funding by Central and State Governments is like a surprise Xmas Gift) with Adani group investing Rs 2454 crore for the project. Like the cat drinking milk with closed eyes, it is not be mentioned or just safely ignored that land worth Rs 600 crore will also be transferred with best compliments. Along with this 400 acres of sea will be reclaimed to provide land for container yards. The Cabotage laws of the country had earlier been relaxed all in view of this dream project. Uninterrupted power supply from a 110KV substation along with water treatment facility will ensure that the work for the port continues well.
Who does not compliment whom?
The fall out of the Vizhinjam project ( like Nuclear disaster fall out that spreads silently and afar) is a bit loud. It is not to the people directly affected and the ecosystems and biodiversity that the Chief Minister and Chief Secretary will have to palm out condescending advices and apologies but to many more.
The Ancient Hills of Southern Western Ghats
The spur hills of Southern Western Ghats lie waiting for the sound of blasts and quarries. Less than 50 kms from the capital city is the township of Vellarada with villages that have beautiful names like Kondaketti mala and Koonichi mala. Big quarry owners from other parts of the State with nice names like Bluemount have bought 7 kms of hills with ancient rocks to set up quarries. The water source for many villages, the soil and climate control mechanisms for the rich agriculture based livelihoods that sustain human life along with the biodiversity of the verdant hills will be destroyed forever. The people there were on a satyagraha at the entrance to the biggest quarry unit for which land has been bought. No best compliments have been showered on this area by anyone, but the cruel and killing claws of the land grabbers are there with threats, abuses, bribes and police support too. The newly elected Panchayat recently took a resolution not to allow any new quarries which has appeased the struggle a bit but without losing alertness. The blasted mountains will be used to reclaim the 400 acres of sea.
The Green Corridor of NH 47 from Kazhakuttom – Muttom in Vizhinjam
The NH 47 which is one of the major attractions for the location of the Transhipment port has to be widened and four laned immediately. For this 29km of road from Kazhakuttom to Vizhinjam has been selected on the famed road leading to Kovalam. The NHAI- Local implementation Unit sought permission from the Tree Examination Committee as a mandatory act to axe 10,000 trees. In the first phase which is for 11kms 4200 trees have been marked for axing. When an RTI was filed, the Environmental Impact Assessment for the whole highway done in 2008 by a company that does not have EIA for Highway Accreditation (SECON-Pvt Ltd based in Bangalore ) has been provided. The impact of losing 4200 trees along a small stretch like 11kms is tremendous and needs specific study. The social and cultural cost of this widening act has not been mentioned at all. The most uncomplimentary remarks have been made about the loss of time and resources caused by tree lovers and other such people. The first phase of cutting has started and more than 200 trees lie on the ground. It is so “heartening” to know that in this process 490 trees will be saved !!! But why worry? 40,000 trees will be planted in 3 locations situated more than 10 kms from this road- the NHAI has already transferred Rs 2 crore to the Forest Department Socio Forestry wing to plant this. An attempt by Citizens group to be part of a Monitoring Committee that will ensure that these multiples of four will be maintained has been ignored. The number of small livelihoods that will be displaced is unknown. The access to many houses, religious institutions, schools and hospitals will be affected. The life of people who have been living for years along this road will be adversely affected. No hoarding that conveys Best Compliments to these has been set up so far.
Ecosystems and Habitats Lost The impact on ground water with small ponds, acquifers and streams as the land gets reclaimed and raised to the same level as the existing road is unknown. The vestiges of original ecosystems and habitats like marshes, mangroves and swamps will disappear forever. As trees go the air and sound pollution indices will go up along with the temperature making the area not conducive for human existence. The access road to the Kovalam-Vizhinjam Tourist hub zone will be disrupted for the next few seasons.
Social, Cultural and Livelihood Impact
The number of small livelihoods that will be displaced is unknown. The access to many houses, religious institutions, schools and hospitals will be affected. The life of people who have been living for years along this road will be adversely affected. No hoarding that conveys Best Compliments to these has been set up so far. A survey done along 1.5 kms of the 3.3 km Green Corridor from Thiruvallom- Vazhamuttom where more than 2000 trees grow show that there are 80 buildings including houses and 40 shops including temporary make shift ones that will be directly or indirectly impacted as the road widens.
This is in addition to the direct impact of the project on the 50,000 villagers, the 32 coastal villages, the loss of livelihood, the disruption to the valuable and vulnerable ecosystems that sustain life like the famed Wadge Banks, the nascent but diverse coral outcrops that deserve special study and protection for future generations to lead a healthy life in communion with nature and natural resource based life strategies.
The compliments that the grinning faces on the hoarding with Adani’s blessings will never ever reach the above mentioned as the Chariot Of Progress driven by the smugness and unjust development plans rolls over
Anitha.S ( firstname.lastname@example.org) after some Maha Tree Walks and attempts to dialogue with the representatives of Government like the Chief Secretary)