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Kerala - Pathanamthitta Printer Friendly Page   Send this Article to a Friend

Farmers up in arms against conversion of paddy fields

Staff Reporter

Proposed infrastructure project will damage environment, say greens



GREEN EXPANSE: The Rudhirappozhi-Kathalapuram paddy fields in Kozhencherry in Pathanamthitta district.

PATHANAMTHITTA: The move by the Kozhencherry grama panchayat to convert the vast Rudhirappozhi-Kathalapuram paddy fields into a multi-crore infrastructure development project has kicked up a row. The Kozhencherry Panchayat Karshaka Sanghom (KPKS) has strongly opposed the move, alleging that it is a "covert operation masterminded by the politician-real estate mafia nexus."

Talking to The Hindu , C.G. Varghese, KPKS leader, said conversion of the environmentally sensitive low-lying area would do irreparable environmental damage. Prof. Varghese said the paddy fields were the main source of groundwater replenishment and its reclamation would lead to drying up and pollution of wells in the area. Heavy seepage of the Pampa Irrigation Project canal that passes through the Rudrappozhi-Kathalapuram paddy fields has converted it into a wetland in the last five years. He said repeated pleas to the officials concerned to take steps to flush out the canal water from the paddy fields had fallen on deaf ears.

A few farmers took up cultivation of tapioca, plantain and oil palm in their land without altering the geo-morphologic pattern of the low-lying area a few months ago when they lost hope of getting official help to continue paddy cultivation there, said Prof. Varghese.

He alleged that the Kerala Congress(M)-led panchayat committee had also issued notice, through the Kozhencherry tahsildar, to five farmers who had taken up alternative cultivation in their land in April.

The notice to the five farmers, T.P. Mathew Thottathil, Saji Mathew Mulamoottil, Nagendra Bhaktan Madhathil, Sreekumar Pambadimon and K.P.Varghese Kochiyil, said their farming activity involved conversion of the land and hence should be stopped with immediate effect. It is ironical that the same tahsildar and other Revenue authorities have turned a blind eye to rampant illegal reclamation of paddy fields in and around Kozhencherry beside conversion of land, said Prof. Varghese.

He alleged that certain panchayat authorities and their close aides had already purchased a large extent of land, at `throw-away' prices, in the periphery of the paddy fields that have been earmarked for conversion, anticipating a real estate boom in the locality after the development project materialises.

In a memorandum submitted to the Chief Minister, the KPKS has demanded immediate withdrawal of the tahsildar's order to farmers against taking up alternative cultivation in land. It also sought immediate intervention of the Government to facilitate paddy cultivation in the area by making arrangements to flush out the PIP canal waters logged in the low-lying area. It said steps should be taken to prevent the conversion of paddy fields for other purposes.

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