A coastal village Alappad has been at the centre of action in Kerala for the last few weeks. For now, the state government has agreed to stop for sea-washing for a month till the proposed expert committee submitted its impact study report. It is a method of mineral sand-mining.
Alappad, a narrow land strip, is between Arabian Sea and the TS Canal in Kollam. It had faced the brunt of cyclonic storm Ockhi last year and the Tsunami in 2004. Seeking to save their remaining villages, the people of Alappad and nearby hamlets under the banner of the protest council have been on a relay hunger strike at Vellanathuruthu near Alappad for the last 78 days demanding a complete halt to the mining activities.
Agitators have claimed that hamlet after hamlet were "disappearing" from the map due to mining activities by the IRE, a central public sector undertaking, and state government-owned Kerala Minerals and Metals Limited (KMML).
The demand came to be noticed after a 17-year-old Class XII student Kavya recorded a video about the impact of decades-long black sand mining in her village. She sent it to her sister’s friend and without her knowledge, it went viral.
In the video she talks about her village, the ill-effects of black sand mining. “Alappad is a village which lies between two water bodies and on our seashore, it is mostly black sand. Fishermen inhabit this island. IRE is the company which mines here. As a result of the drilling and mining, the sea has been eating into our land and our island has been shrinking. If the sea eats our land, we will have to be relocated, but as fishermen where else can we go? Today our home, tomorrow it could be all of Kerala. This is the time we must protest. No media has reported it and no politician has taken up this either,” says Kavya in the video.
Early last week, conciliatory talks to end the agitation by locals against mineral sand mining in coastal Alappad panchayat Kerala after the protesters refused to accept the state government's interim proposal of partial halt to the mining activities.
Industries Minister EP Jayarajan told the anti-mining People's Protest Council, spearheading the over two month long agitation, that sea washing, a method of mineral sand-mining, would be stopped for one month till the proposed expert committee submitted its impact study report.
A high-level meeting, convened by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, had decided to set up the committee to study the impact of mineral sand-mining in Alappad. The meeting had also decided to temporarily halt the process of sea washing or surface mining of sand.
Seeking to save their remaining villages, the people of Alappad and nearby hamlets under the banner of the protest council have been on a relay hunger strike at Vellanathuruthu near Alappad for the last 78 days demanding a complete halt to the mining activities.
Speaking to reporters after the conciliatory talks, Jayarajan said mining cannot be stopped as many people were employed with the companies. “We have decided to conduct a comprehensive study into the mineral sand-mining. Report will be submitted in a month.
They (agitators) want us to stop the mining. It's not possible to stop mining entirely. Only sea washing will be stopped. Inland mining can continue,” he said.
The minister said the LDF government offered everything it could and expressed hope that the protest would be called off. He also said that the government will ask the IRE to construct groynes and strengthen the sea wall along the stretch.
However, dissatisfied with the outcome of the talks, the protest council said the agitation would continue until their demands were met. “We are happy that the minister would visit the place. We are not going to stop the agitation. We need the mining to stop. Minister was talking about the industry, its business. How does it matter to us? We are losing our place to live. Our land has become a narrow stretch,” a representative of the council said.
With PTI inputs