There were many a times when we all have sought these timeless mountain for solace and have felt comforted in the midst of our troubles! We seek them once in a while … but now, they need us more to stand for them! Do we, the people of Kanyakumari, need the mountains even more than these development projects need them? If so, let it show!
Where will Vilinjam Port’s urgent need for 55 Lakk Cubic Tonnes of Hard Rock come from?
Earlier on 8th March 2018, New Indian Express reported “For several months now, the construction of the breakwater has not progressed due to a severe shortage in construction rock. So far, only 600 metres of the 3.1 km structure has been completed. Attempts to procure rock from Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu and Kollam are on, but nothing has been finalised yet. Local consignments keep trickling in, but the demand is to the tune of several lakh tonnes of rock.
The plan now is to use bottom-opening barges to dump the rocks in place after the southwest monsoon.
Major glitches in rock supply had hit the construction of the breakwater months ago. Now dredging work - the second of the three big components in Phase I - has also come to a standstill. Work on both segments is expected to resume in full strength only after the southwest monsoon.”
This was from around the time that the frequency of hard rock shipments to Kerala multiplied many hundred fold & local availability froze.
S. Anil Radhakrishnan, on The Hindu dated April 27 reports, “The government is considering several options to overcome the shortage of granite for the construction of the country’s first International Multi-purpose Deepwater Seaport project at Vizhinjam.
Following restrictions imposed on granite mining by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, the State is considering bringing granite from Kanyakumari district in Tamil Nadu, Kollam district and rural areas of Thiruvananthapuram district.
Adani Vizhinjam Port Private Ltd (AVPPL) of Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone Ltd. (APSEZ), the private multi-port operator selected to build the superstructure and operate the seaport, said 70 tonnes of granite were needed for completing the 3.1-km long breakwater.
The availability of granite is crucial for construction of the breakwater beyond 600 m. The remaining critical portions of the breakwater are in the deepwater that ranges from 16 to 20 m.
The government has asked the District Collectors of Kollam and Thiruvananthapuram to identify granite quarries and procure granite to enable AVPPL to expedite work on the project. The government is also considering allowing the AVPPL to do granite quarrying on its own, official sources said.
The aim was to move granite through sea via the Muthalapozhi harbour in bottom opening barges to the site. For this, a load jetty had to be set up at Muthalapozhi harbour on the lines of one set up in Kollam with storage yards. Compared to 55 km by road from Kilimanoor to Vizhinjam, the sea route is only 22 km.
The granite from the quarries in the capital, to be used on the top of the breakwater, will be sourced from the district later.
On 30th April he reports, “A spokesman of the AVPPL said quarries in Kilimanoor had been identified and the aim was to move granite from the load-out facility through sea via the harbour in bottom-opening barges to the site of breakwater construction. The AVPPL is to deploy four to five bottom opening barges.
The AVPPL has already set up a load jetty in Kollam with storage yards to bring in granite.
“We are also for setting up similar facilities in Thengapattnam and Colachel to bring granite to Vizhinjam,” he added.
Kilimanoor is only worth 15 lakh cubic tones of rock. Where will the rest come from?
Kanyakumari’s Mountains at risk? What happens Next?
Will the Govts. Of Kerala and Tamilnadu collude to license Kanyakumari’s Hills & Mountains to be quarried to meet the urgent development needs of Kerala? What happens then? Will the people of Kanyakumari give up our mountains just because the Government said so or because the Kerala Govt & Adani have to finish the Port they started at Vizhinjam? After all nobody in Kanyakumari offered these still standing mountains to build the Vizhinjam Port’s break waters; Who will, while we are still fighting “Adani’s development” idea here!
The Hills that surround Nagercoil town are 65 million years old and are part of the Southern Western Ghats, the last of which end in a scattering of small hills & hillocks up till the tail end of Kanyakumari beach. These hills that have now been licensed to mine are part of the tail end of the Southern Western Ghats - also home to many birds & animals that figure in the list of IUCN’s endangered species!
A look into an IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Map for any of the bird, mammal or animal species distinct to the South Western Ghats topography, you could see their area of habitation extend well over the human settlements ie.) over the villages and towns of Kanyakumari. That is only because the natural forests full of tropical fruit trees have vanished with the growing mono-cultured rubber plantations in Reserve Forest Land in the name of Private Forests which now cover most of the mountain slopes of Kanyakumari district. But it is the cultured backyards of homes in Kanyakumari that the birds and animals move in search of food these days.
Food for them has moved from core forest areas to human habitations, where the man-made-farms and fruit tree plantations around home evoke equal interest in birds, animals and reptiles alike. That way, bird and animal movement, is scattered all over the plains of Kanyakumari too and it is the edge of the forests lands, most of which are hilly slopes meeting red soiled land, where one can still witness Kanyakumari’s natural bio-diversity in its richness. This isn’t core reserve forest we are talking about but the fringe lands around small mountains & hills that are visible around all villages and towns of Kanyakumari. We can still witness lot of wild boar, monkey & migratory bird activity in the slopes & wetlands of Aalampaarai hills in Nagercoil and one way or the other, the hunter in us has subsided and people have learnt to live with the host of wildlife around them. Three miles away from this beautiful suburb scene at the tranquil foothills of the Aalampaari Hills, some 5 lakh animals co-exist, bickering and fighting over everything & nothing, in a thickly populated concrete jungle called Nagercoil.
Hundreds of Botanical & Zoological researches have been carried out in the same areas that are being mined for hard rock now, falsifying reports and documents to lay claim on a quarry license. This is proof enough the TN Govt has authorized mining in a zone demarcated as a Bio-diversity Hotspot, which has been made possible by the Govt. Officials falsifying records or standing by them. When the people responsible to protect the Natural Heritage of Kanyakumari District (Collector, DFO, DoMG) sign their names approving the destruction of these virgin Mountain lands, on which door will the common man who has been playing spectator to the Rape of Nagercoil’s Hills knock for justice? Tormented by the pain of a changing landscape that can’t be “reset to original settings” ever again, he can only raise his hand and head sky ward and cry in pain…. a pain as hard and numbing as losing a spouse, or from witnessing the death of his own child - all the while crying to a God gone Deaf “When will Justice arrive?”
These Hills that surround Nagercoil Town are 65 Million Years Old. They are part of our identity; Kanyakumari’s Natural Heritage. Anybody who has lived close by knows the joy of having a hell near home! Those of us who pass through the roads, witness them from a distance, in our daily commute to work, have over the time developed an untold affinity - a bonding that draws us to it. The Hills & Mountains of Nagercoil that we grew up roaming like mountain Goats were here yesterday, some still left for today and are not here to be gone tomorrow – just to satisfy one man’s lust for a good life! Not for 50 Good Men! God couldn’t have planned it that way! Neither do we read development that way!
These Mountains & hills have witnessed the passage of many hundred generations of time. But it would never have witnessed one generation as cruel, wicked, foolish and greedy as ours - which steals the food of its own hungry children, one that rapes its own children to feed its lust for selfish pleasures and the one that would one day eat its own flesh when it goes hungry. Aren’t we ashamed to be mute witnesses to the Rape of Nagercoils Mountains? When those in power fail to deliver the goodness expected of them, then the Public Good becomes the common man’s responsibility. That way, it is on our hands to decide now! Do we, the people of Kanyakumari, need the mountains even more than these development projects need them? If so, let it show! And, because we have been compelled to show our regret to their decision, we have to be visible about it. There can be no two ways about it; you can be on only one side – you are either for us (against mining) or against us! Take your stand today! Lets come together to SAVE OUR MOUNTAINS; let us not give up our mountains in our lifetime!
We need our Mountains and now, our Mountains need us More!
Now is the time to join the Campaign against Mining in Kanniyakumari that is being led by MLA Manothangaraj and Dr. Lal Mohan.
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