Verdict seen as a major victory for local residents and activists who strongly oppose the proposed airport as it involves large-scale illegal conversion of paddy fields and alleged ecological impact
The pictures show paddy fields [rice] where the airport is being constructed
The southern Bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT), on Wednesday, cancelled the environmental clearance given to the controversial international airport project in Kerala. The project is under construction at Aranmula in Pathanamthitta district. The tribunal, at Chennai, ordered KGS Group, the promoters of the project, to stop all the construction and related activities at the project site. The project was given clearance by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests in November last year.
The ministry had cleared the Rs 2,000 crore greenfield airport in December last year, based on the recommendations given by its Environmental Appraisal Committee. The clearance meant rejection of all the objections raised by the local communities and several organisations, including environmental groups, in the state.” The proposed airport violated many rules and laws, including the Kerala Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetland Act 2008, Kerala Land Reforms Act, 1963, Environment Protection Act, 1986 and Land Acquisition Act. Construction of the airport could result in diversion of course of water which runs through the Pampa river,” says K P Sreeranganathan, local resident and one of the petitioners in the Green Tribunal.
A major portion of the 200 hectares proposed site consists of paddy fields and wetlands. It also consists of hilly areas and a stream on which local farmers depend for agriculture. Developers, however, claim that the Aranmula airport is the first private international greenfield airport in the country. KGS Aranmula Limited is the consortium which is developing this project.
“The tribunal cancelled the environment clearance based mainly on three reasons,” says Harish Vasudevan, a green lawyer actively involved in the legal battle against the project.”The tribunal accepted our argument that the private agency, Envirocare, which conducted the Environment Impact Assessment study for the company lacked expertise to do so.”
The bench has also ruled that the public hearing for the project was not done in the required manner and company failed to give an exact account of the response of the local communities on the project.
The court observed that the promoters have not even mentioned about paddy fields, hilly areas and streams in the promised site. The tribunal has criticised conversion of wetland and paddy fields into an industrial area for the sake of the project. The ministry’s Environmental Appraisal Committee failed to look into these issues.
Another reason for the agitations is that Aranmula, a global heritage village recognised by the Unesco, has an ancient Krishna temple. The mast height of the temple will have to be brought down if the project has to be implemented and without to avoid obstruction to the flights. Aranmula Heritage Village Protection Action Council and political parties such as Bharatiya Janata Party have been opposing the project on the environmental and heritage grounds.
“This is a victory of the concerted and continuous efforts of the people as a number of organisations had come together to fight against the project that would have caused significant environmental and ecological damage,” says famous poet Sugatha Kumari, who is on the forefront of the agitations against the project.
“The Green Tribunal’s verdict on Aranmula project is a strong warning against those who flout rules and disregard the environment and ecology in order to achieve something they desperately need,” V M Sudheeran, Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee president told media persons in Thiruvananthapuram.
Setback to the state government
The verdict is a major setback to the Congress-led Oommen Chandy government that has been pushing the project since 2011 and gave a No Objection Certificate to the central government.
The affidavits submitted by the Kerala government in the tribunal also did not tell the true story and ground realities about the environment and ecology of the proposed site,” points out C R Neelakandan, a well-known environmentalists.
The clearance for the project was first given by the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government led by V S Achuthanandan in October 2010. Without taking the local communities into confidence, the site was notified as an industrial area. The local residents in three affected villages came to know about the project only when their land with title deeds was notified for acquisition.
Later, the Congress led-United Democratic Front government which came to power in May 2011 moved forward with the project even when a Legislative Assembly Committee had raised objections against the project in March 2013. The committee observed that 80 per cent of the land earmarked for the project was
paddy fields. Conversion of paddy fields would impact the remaining wetlands, disturb the food chain, and accelerate the depletion of fish resources as well as other flora and fauna in the Pamba river basin. Te Kerala State Biodiversity Board too had expressed its reservations on the project.
The project that started as a private project was converted as a public-private partnership project in the wake of the agitations. The state government has bought 10 per cent of the stakes of the consortium that is led by KGS Group and Anil Ambani’s Reliance Group. The KGS Group has 51 per cent and Reliance has 15 per cent stake in the consortium.
“This was to give undue concessions to the project in the name of public partnership,” says Neelakandan.
In November 2013, the Department of Revenue (DoR) Central Board of Excise and Customs issued a report stating there was “no urgent requirement” for the development of the Greenfield International Airport at Aranmula. In December 2013, the central government granted “in-principle” approval for the new airport. As per Greenfield Airport Policy, 2008, Airport Authority of India (AAI), the state government or any other entity can submit application for setting up of a green field airport. The airport has faced objections from multiple sources, including that it violates the policy of not allowing a new green field airport within 150km of an existing airport. The proposed site locates at a distance less than 150 km from both the Cochin International Airports as well as Thiruvananthapuram International Airport. The Indian Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture has already recommended the development of the airport not go ahead.
Aranmula satyagraha against airport plan enters 100th day
21.5.2014 (The Hindu)
Action council plans grand celebrations, three processions to be taken out
The indefinite satyagraha launched by the People’s Joint Action Council, chaired by poet and social activist B. Sugathakumari, against the controversial airport project at Aranmula will enter its 100th day on Wednesday.
The action council has made arrangements to observe the milestone in a big way.
Though it was decided to include 100 persons every day in the satyagraha that began on February 11, the number of participants had exceeded far more, even 800 to 1,000 on most of the days, action council leaders P.R. Shaji and P. Induchoodan, said in a statement here.
They said as many as 89 socio-cultural, political and environmental organisations actively took part in the satyagraha during the past 99 days.
People representing all the 14 districts had visited the satyagraha venue expressing solidarity with the agitation to protect the wetland, paddy land, and the heritage of Aranmula, they said.
Register of names
Prominent personalities from the socio-political spheres of the State had addressed the satyagraha on all days.
The action council is maintaining a register showing the name, address and other details of as many as 30,000 people who have taken part in the satyagraha so far, the statement said.
The action council leaders said the people in the area would take out three processions from three different places to Iykara Junction at Aranmula in the morning on Wednesday. The 100th day celebrations will begin with 100 people representing 100 places and 100 organisations lighting lamps at the satyagraha venue.
In a statement here on Tuesday, Hindu Aikyavedi district vice-president P.R. Soman said the organisation would stage dharnas at all taluk headquarters in the State on Wednesday, extending solidarity with the satyagraha at Aranmula.
Mr. Soman said P.G. Sasikala, Mahila Aikyavedi State vice-president, will inaugurate the evening dharna in Thiruvalla and N.G. Unnikrishnan, Aranmula Heritage Village Action Council (AHVAC) general convener, will inaugurate the dharna in Mallappally.
K. Krishnakutty, AHVAC State co-ordinator, will inaugurate the dharna in Adoor.
Their Facebook page says:
Kummanam Rajasekharan the agitation movement leader gives Aranmula Temple Prasadam to the oldest peasant Sri Podiyan,to celebrate Aranmula agitation Victory
[Prasadam is called Sacred food. Prasadam translates to "mercy", or "God's Mercy." It can be explained as something that has been offered to God, which now has spiritual benefit.]
Big Victory for Aranmula Agitation; Green Tribunal cancels environment clearance to Aranmula Airport
Aranmula, Kerala May 28:
The Chennai Bench of the National Green Tribunal [NGT] today cancelled the environment clearance given to the Aranmula Airport project, in Kerala. The tribunal has also ordered KGS Group, the promoters of the project, to stop all the construction activities going on at the project site in Pathanamthitta district.
The apex court’s bench today has cancelled the environment clearance based on four reasons, mainly because of the incompetency of Enviro Care, the agency which had done the study on environmental impact of the proposed project.
The Airport project, in the central part of Kerala went into controversy as the famous Aranmula Sree Parthasarathy temple is in the vicinity of the project. This created strong resistance from the public, especially from the Hindu devotees and struggle against the project is going on.
This was also a major campaign issue in the recently concluded parliament election. The tribunal observed that the project would adversely affect the environment of the area and would have disastrous impact on it.
The tribunal rejected the arguments of KGS Group and the Kerala Government. Based on the controversial no objection certificate, submitted by the Kerala Government, the Ministry of Environment and Forests had cleared the project in November, 2013.
The court said that KGS Group had not conducted a serious study about the environment impact of the project. They did not even mention about paddy fields and hills in the proposed site. The company did not even conduct a public hearing over the issue.
Aranmula Heritage Village Protection Action Council [AHVPAC] had approached the Green Tribunal against the order of the Environment Ministry and hence the latest order. The airport is planned to build in around 500 acres with a total investment of Rs 2000 crore. [A crore is 10 million rupees].
The Kerala State Biodiversity Board submitted a report to the government in March 2013, expressing its reservations over the land use changes and ecological imbalance that the project will entail. The Board observed that 80% of the 500 acres earmarked for the project were paddy fields. Conversion of paddy fields would impact on the remaining wetlands, disturb the food chain, and accelerate the depletion of fish resources as well as other flora and fauna in the Pamba river basin, the report said.
In April 2013, the tribunal had granted an interim stay on the project banning any construction at the site. It also stayed the Kerala Government’s order to convert the 500 acres of land for industrial purpose .
However, the Tribunal set aside its order on 30 April 2013, dismissing the petition filed by the Action Council, challenging various decisions related to the project including industrial area notification and the NOC given by the Kerala Government.
Opposition in Kerala in south west India to building of a new airport at Aranmula
2.8.2013In Kerala, in the south west of India, there are plans for a private company to build a large new airport, for low cost airlines, at Aranmula. The site is within 100 km of two international airports – at Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram. These airports bring in tourists to Kerala, and it is intended that it brings in pilgrims to a nearby site. The land at Aranmula is greenfield, and there are plans to take at least 350 acres, and perhaps much more for an aerotropolis. Local people fear it could destroy paddy land and damage the region’s water source. They also fear it could harm the town’s ‘heritage’ tag and damage the structure of a temple located just a few hundred metres from the project site. There are concerns that the airport would not be profitable, due to its two neighbours, which are not full. The airport has aroused intense opposition over the past two years, and there have been many protests. The opponents have a Facebook site, and have been feeling they are alone in their fight, being unaware of the extent of other airport opposition elsewhere in the world. The Indian government recently announced it proposes to build 17 new airports in 11 states. http://www.airportwatch.org.uk/?p=17445
The opponents of the Aranmula airport project have a Facebook page at