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The River Meets Sea

By Anitha.S

28 August, 2013

Jaseera And Darley

Darley has been in the Short Stay Home of Thiruvananthapuram city for over 2 weeks now. She was brought here forcibly by the Neyyatinkara Police on the grounds that her home on the banks of the river Neyyar is no longer safe. But that is something she has been saying aloud for more than a decade now, going from pillar to post with innumerable appeals, complaints, interviews, television reports and so on. If her story had been listened to and the rightful decisions taken long back, then she would not have sat alone and disoriented like a forsaken woman in the city.

Darley's home on the banks of the river Neyyar

If regulations had been enforced on the number of banks from which sand could be mined, on the number of boats that could carry on this rampant activity, on the other associated activities like illicit liquor brewing in the area, the situation for Darley, the river and the land would not have reached such disastrous proportions. It is not when Darley’s little home and the narrow bridge of land leading to it caved under the erosive force of the Neyyar in monsoon spate that she should have been “saved”. It is not when Darley has lost her focus having been alone and hounded by the sand mining people and greedy locals wanting to sell the ravaged land that she should be asked to explain her “plight”. Having seen her in the heights of fighting spirits and clarity of thought 5 years back, it pains one to see this vestige of a bold and committed woman. It is now so easy to condemn and judge her as a ‘mad raving and ranting woman’ with no family or community support or political backing. Many have come close wanting to take up her issue, but Darley seems to be in a world of her own. Interspersed with some absurd and unfocussed thoughts, Darley does talk about her river Neyyar and the splendid abundance of the soil and agriculture along its banks, the purity of the water.

‘I want them to be caught and made to compensate for the loss of land, trees and property that I have suffered.They should be made to rebuild my broken home. The river sand mining should be stopped immediately. They ( mentioning a few names including of women) are hand in glove with the law enforcers and officers. Otherwise why is it so hard to stop the mining?’

Darley’s question echoes through all the streams and rivers of this small state of Kerala with 44 rivers where river sand has become a source of revenue for the Local Self Government and issuing of permits and allocation of banks has become a conduit for corruption and crime. It has been scientifically proven that the rate of extraction of sand from all rivers has now exceeded rate of natural deposition. We do not need more data and evidences to prove that the subsidence and deepening of river channel will lead to changes in river flow, direction of flow and also cause irreversible depletion of fresh water in wells. The erosion of banks will result in loss of vegetative cover which in turn will accelerate erosion leading to more land loss. The change in course of river will inundate more land, making it unfit for agriculture and other productive processes. The loss of species diversity in the rivers with negative impact on freshwater fisheries and biodiversity will affect livelihoods connected to the riparian system. A sensible and strong Darley whom many of us saw a few years back had raised all these questions and focused on the scenario including the social impact of this new found livelihood.

Now no longer able to put her thoughts in order, Darley imagines finding security and protection in a family she longs to create in her present state. It brought her relief to be with Jaseera from Kannur who has been raising the same issue of illegal and uncontrolled sand mining but from a different realm- the sea shore. Jaseera entering 25 days of indefinite satyagraha in front of the Secretariat with her 3 children asks the same questions.As the river meets the sea, Darley came to Secretariat to be with Jaseera and also to inform the authorities that she cannot be in a Short Stay Home for long. The two women met with Darley breaking down in tears as Jaseera pacified her.

Jaseera’s voice is loud and clear, her perceptions have an undeniable clarity and determination.Having had to face many ordeals from the Police, the so called “Rescue” activities and also the rebuke of her own community, Jaseera is unshakeable. The demands of this young woman has been handled with callous negligence with the Collector giving a report alleging her of “ manipulations to make monetary benefit with the connivance of fraud environmentalists” and so on. It is shocking to think that a decision about such a grave issue that a woman like Jaseera has been raising based on her real life experiences should be based on a report that is biased and unreasonable. Should there not be an “ Expert Committee” to look into the matter that can advise the Government about the route to a long-term positive decision based on norms set by Coastal Zone Management Authority and stipulations of the National Green Tribunal? Should there not be a Public Hearing on ICZMP where opinions and complaints from all over Kerala can be collated to effectively ban and regulate shore mining especially for construction activities? Who has done a Safety Analysis to know if this sand is fit for construction ? The questions do not have solid answers.

But we do know that in both the case of Darley and Jaseera there has to be more scientific and viable studies and handling of issues before decisions are taken. This has to lead to the one and only decision that can and should be taken as we are back to the wall in both cases- NO MORE RIVER/ SEA SHORE SAND MINING IN KERALA. We are long past regulated mining and phased out extraction of sand. We have lost enough land, water and precious livelihoods and life styles in this name. Darley and Jaseera are but burning embers in the ocean of darkness that flows drowning us all called Development and Progress. Like the quote from Tagore,

“ We have for a century been dragged by the prosperous West by its chariot, choked by the dust, deafened by the noise and humbled by our own helplessness and overwhelmed by the speed. Of late a voice has come to us bidding us to take count not only of the scientific perfection of the chariot but of the depth of ditches lying across its path”

As the river meets the sea, the voice of Darley and that of Jaseera resounds with this urgent reminder that soon it may be too late…

Anitha.S in conversation with Darley and Jaseera in Thiruvananthapuram. For details contact sarmaji1916@gmail.com

Please write letters to the Chief Minister of Kerala as soon as possible demanding that immediate action on both River sand mining and Seashore sand collection be done based on a Rapid Scientific Assessment of the issues raised by Darley and Jaseera. chiefminister@kerala.gov.in



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