Letter From A Woman Fighting Sand Mining In Coastal Villages Of Kerala
07 August, 2013
Secretariat North Gate
Photo by Peethambaran Payyeri
I am Jaseera from the village of Madayi in Puthiyangadi area of the northern most district of Kannur in Kerala. I am writing to you from the capital city of Thiruvananthapuram sitting under a huge tree raining down on us after the heavy downpour since 2 days. I arrived here in Thiruvananthapuram with my three children three days back. I have been sitting here in front of the Secretariat to draw attention to an issue of concern not only for me and my children. But for all of us in Kerala and elsewhere. I hope you will listen to me and react and respond. If a woman like me, with 3 young children, a meager income from my occupation as autorickshaw driving can feel and respond to the disaster that has befallen the coastline of the village I was born and grew up in, I believe that each one of you can take this up and make a small wave of change.
Let me give you my story in a nut shell. I grew up playing on the beach and the pure white sandy shores of the village I was born with my friends. There were crabs and crows, shells and cowries, the occasional huge visiting sea turtles which used to dig holes and lay eggs, the algae and other sea weeds that got washed ashore on the wide beach. We would play and rest watching the waves, drying fish and clothes.
About 2 years back, I came home after a gap to give birth to my son, Muhammad. I was shocked to see that my tiny house stood just 60 meters away from the high tide line. The waves lashed and roared at us scaring my little daughters as they were not used to this having been in Kottayam with their father. I found that a new occupation had emerged in my village in the intervening years giving employment to women and youth besides many migrant laborers from other States. Every day many headloads of sea shore sand would be carried to the road where lorries would take them for the bourgeoning construction boom in Kerala. With more and more houses coming up along with shopping malls and buildings, the demand on river sand and now seashore sand is on the rise. Having seen the impact of river sand mining on our rivers and ground water, it seemed to me even more dangerous to let the sea inside, especially so since the coast of Kerala is so densely populated and the sea has started coming into the land frequently.
I tried to talk to my family, my own brother who is employed in this- all to no avail. That was when I decided to raise the questions this issue of illegal sea sand mining has created and the need to be aware of the impending disaster.
I learnt that much of the Coastal area in Kerala needs to be protected with minimum allocation for heavy industries and activities like mining. The magnitude of the need for implementation of the highly relevant Coastal Regulation Zone Act was understood by me as I watched the waves eat away the already eroded coastline of my village. I appealed to all authorities- regional ones – the Police, the District Revenue authorities and Collector, not to speak of the Local self Government personnel. I started an indefinite strike in front of Kannur Collectrate from July 11, 2013. This was because women had started carrying headloads of sand, defying the order to stop given by the Tahsildar. I have faced numerous allegations including from the Child Helpline that I am using my children, denying women of job opportunities and so on.
On the 4th day in front of Thiruvananthapuram Secretariat, I hear that people in my village formed a human chain against me alleging that I am denying them of “traditional”jobs.What is traditional and from when did sea shore sand mining assume a traditional status? Many are afraid that I will win this struggle for protecting the beach and land. I have only this demand that I have made clear to the Chief Minister yesterday morning:
1.A complete ban on seashore sand mining taking into account its danger as a construction material and the disastrous impact of its removal on the life and livelihood of thousands of human habitants
2.Adherenace to all the conditions within the purview of the Coastal Regulation Zone taking to account the impact of activities in the region within 50 metres of High Tide Line.
I will stay in the rain holding on to my children till I get assurance from the authorities concerned starting from the Chief Minister that my just demands be fulfilled. For me this is not a fight for my personal gain- it is so that we will still have land to live in, beaches to play and haul our boats and nets, the sea as a friendly presence in our lives.
Do join me in this SAVE OUR SEASHORE( SOS) Campaign .
Hoping you all will start responding and reacting
(Anitha.S in conversation with Jaseera under the Mahogany tree in front of Secretariat, Trivandrum on 5th August 2013 and after reading M.Sulfath’s article in Mathrubhumi, July 28,2013)
The friends and organizations like SEWA, Kerala Swatantra Matsya Thozhilalai Federation, Coastal Watch, Youth For Environment and Justice are organizing a SUPPORT dharna in front of SECRETARIAT in support of Jaseera on 7th August at 10.30 am.
Do join or mail the Chief Minister of Kerala ( firstname.lastname@example.org) demanding that he gives it in writing to Jaseera that the mining will be stopped and adherence to CZMP will be done.
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