Kanyakumari’s lost 5 million trees to Okchi Cyclone & the Highway Project: MLA Mano

Kanyakumari’s lost 5 million trees to Okchi Cyclone & the Highway Project: MLA Mano

in Society / Environment

Wouldn’t Okche Cyclone losses have been minimal if we hadn’t leveled Kanyakumari’s mountains & hillocks for blue-metal mining?” asks MLA Mano Thankaraj. Kanyakumaris lost a substantial part of its green cover during Okche Cyclone with the loss of 3 million trees. He also warns of more carnage to follow due to the ill-routed Highway project and estimated another 2 million trees to disappear by the time the roads are put to use.

Thiruvarambu. 01.04.2018 Speaking on the second anniversary celebration of Chemmanntharai (Thiruvarambu) based NGO, Heaven Foundation, Padhmanabapuram MLA Mano Thankaraj put down some interesting facts about the losses suffered by Kanyakumari due to the Ockhi Cyclone and also warned that we are set to suffer more losses due to the Highway project that is underway in Kanyakumari district.

Addressing a gathering of youth groups from many parts of Kanyakumari district and families from the Thiruvarambu area MLA Mano said “It is shocking to witness Kanyakumari district losing 50 lakh trees in a span of 2,3 years. On one hand it has resulted in the increase of ground temperature, which also means our water bodies could evaporate speedily in summer and wells dry up faster. But the real threat to Kanyakumari’s water bodies is the systematic cultivation of lotus in our tanks and ponds. In spite of a Court ban, lotus cultivation is being carried out vehemently.

“Also, Sajan Singh Chauhan, our last District Collector, signed on the draft removing the existing ban on blue metal mining in Kanyakumari just a week before he was transferred from Nagercoil Collector’s Office. There were 48 licences that were stayed for some time due to vigorous efforts from Kanyakumari’s anti-mining lobby. But before the Sajan Singh Chauhan left, he not only removed the ban on the 48 license holders but has also authorized a few new units. The district head of the Kanyakumari Department of Geology and Mining is the one to blame as she has issued a NOC and in the process approved a few new mines in Kanyakumari, adding up to the already operational 48.”

“It is being argued by experts that it was the removal of the small hills and mountains of Kanyakumari in the name of blue metal mining that we suffered maximum damage from the Okchi cyclone’s landfall. These small mountains & hills that were authorized to be removed for blue metal had the potential to subdue the power of the winds and divert wind direction too. But unfortunately for Kanyakumari, they had been removed before their time,” MLA Mano noted. Interestingly, a check by Cafekk on the district website which has not been updated with the latest information, reads

  • Total revenue collected from Mines and Minerals for the year 2012-2013 is Rs.14,95,93,871.
  • 548 vehicles indulged in unauthorized transportation of minerals had been seized during the year 2012-2013.
  • An amount of Rs.99,80,745 had been collected as penalty from the offenders during the year 2012-2013.

Infact, the total revenue mentioned above for one year is only a fraction of the real amount made by these mining barons, because every trip made by a blue metal laden lorry is 10x times the weight of the licensed unit permitted to load. This is one of the reasons Kanyakumari’s roads get damaged fast, over-laden blue metal transport. And with this kind of revenue potential, we can see Kanyakumari’s hills & mountains faced with the highest level of fatality for the first time in their million year of existence, which also means Kanyakumari’s level of greed has reached a new high that it is ready to redraw the landscape benefiting just a hand full (not even 50 people).

MLA Mano also added, “the four lane-ing of the highway is one of Kanyakumari’s foremost necessities that stood unaddressed for a long time. The existing highway between Nanguneri & Nagercoil and Nagercoil & Trivandrum itself could have been expanded if the government think-tank had any intent of not overspending the tax payers’ money. But that was not so. A part of the business community of Kanyakumari that had stakes on both sides of the existing highway NH47 were not in favour of an expansion plan. But that was a negligible minority who could have been compensated equally well too. Yet, that is not what they did. Instead they charted a totally new lane that runs almost parallel to the existing highway.”

Kanyakumari’s lost 5 million trees to Okchi Cyclone & the Highway Project: MLA Mano

“Thus the favored businesses weren’t disturbed and new lands were acquired for the highway project, with some of the land owners parting with their long held lands not so peacefully. The new highway would swallow 10-15 ponds on its way in addition to the damage caused by the conversion of acres of fertile, cultivable stretches into tar-laid macadam roads. The new highway would also bring down trees in excess of 20 lakhs. We have already lost almost 30 lakh trees to the Okchi cyclone. So in all, Kanyakumari is short of 50 lakh trees all of a sudden, all due to bad planning, as a favour to some and walking over the majority wishes” MLA Mano lamented over Kanyakumari’s loss and its present fate. He also called upon the youth gathered from all parts of the district to compensate the tree loss by creating public awareness about Kanyakumari’s loss & to speed up the pace of replanting to rebuild Kanyakumari’s green cover with systematic use of agri-technology.

“Ponnar, who is high on his second term in office could have a bit more cautious about the way Kanyakumari’s roads are being laid. From previous experience, none of the roads that have been laid have lasted more than a year or two. I have personally represented this issued to Ponnar several times. I have also talked about the Kanyakumari District Officials, who are corrupt to the core and earn 22% as commission from these Government projects for favoring certain contractors. That way almost 40% of the accounted amount from every Government project is given away as commission and the contractor is pushed to deliver the project in time within the rest of the 60% project money, in addition to making his cut from it too. What good can we expect from a corrupt, commission paying Government contractor working on 60% of the proposed budget for the scheme? Bad roads only, if any!”

“I have made complaints about Kanykumari districts’ corrupt Government officials, who bribe their way into Kanyakumari to land on those plush jobs and make many millions illegally within their stipulated 3,4 years of duty here. This is what has been happening to Kanyakumari’s administration in the recent past, as we have the list of the most corrupt officials in the government spending a few years here.”

“As a MLA belonging to the opposition bench, my powers are limited to pointing out and representing public issues to the government & the local administration. But when govt. officials adamantly deny to perform their rightful jobs, it is we the people of Kanyakumari, who suffer the consequences of their irresponsible deeds, and misadministration. And this has been the sorry state of affairs for over a decade now with the local administration!” grieved a thoroughly distraught MLA Mano after many of his fights for environmental causes including conservation of local bodies against Lotus cultivation, Blue-metal mining, corruption in Kanyakumari’s Government offices etc are generating much heat and earning him new enemies in the process.

But we also see him earning much respect and admiration among Kanyakumari’s youth, who see in him the likes of a true leader, who represents their causes. For now, among the 6 MLAs of Kanyakumari, he seems to be the only Kanyakumari MLA who takes his job seriously, while others are trying to emulate him without much success, while watching Mano through a veil of pure jealousy, which they sometimes don’t even try to hide. With the way he has been dealing with issues in his constituency, given a bigger role, can we bet on him to deliver what Kanyakumari had been waiting for long? Would Kanyakumari have him for an MP (#Mano4KKMP) next?


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