“Governments are supposed to preserve precious ecosystems for future generations, not be actively complicit in their wanton destruction,” activists said.

Activists question industrial zone at Sompeta wetland in Andhra urge its protectionImage: Facebook/Sompeta PPS
news Environment Friday, June 29, 2018 - 14:42

The Human Rights Forum (HRF) on Thursday demanded that the Andhra Pradesh government initiate steps immediately to ensure that the Sompeta wetland in Srikakulam district is not ‘vandalised’ further by the Nagarjuna Construction Company (NCC).

“All attempts by the NCC to set up an ‘industrial park’ must be disallowed since it will devastate the lives of thousands of farmers and fisherfolk in the region and will destroy an area that has significant ecological value,” the HRF said in a statement. 

The statement came after an HRF team along with activists of the Sompeta-based Paryavarana Parirakshana Samithi (PPS) visited the wetland on Wednesday.

“We were shocked to see land abutting the wetland dug up in an area of almost 200 acres ostensibly to undertake aqua farming by Savitra Agri Industrial Park Pvt Ltd, a company set up by the NCC. Following protests by local farmers, the digging, which took place in mid-May this year, was halted. The threat of this precious wetland and immediate surroundings being destroyed in future, however, remains,” the HRF activists said.

It all started in 2008, when the NCC was allotted land for setting up a 2,640 megawatt coal-based power plant in Sompeta Mandal. The HRF alleged that the state government alienated 972 acres for this allotment, which constituted a substantial portion of the wetland, through a Government Order 1107 in 2008.

Many NGOs and environmentalists had opposed the move, but the real protest stemmed from the fishermen and the villagers.

By 2010, the unrest in the area had turned into a rebellion with all the surrounding villages coming together to protest the plants.

This was the same year that police opened fire on protestors in a bid to disperse a massive crowd that was marching towards the company’s site.

“Subsequently, the National Environment Appellate Authority (NEAA) revoked the environmental clearance accorded to the project. The HRF and environmentalists have repeatedly pointed out that handing over of the wetland to the NCC was illegal and riddled with gross irregularities. We have emphasised that any industrial activity in a precious wetland is deeply flawed since it will destroy rich biodiversity and subvert the livelihood of farmers, fisher-folk and members of the occupational classes,” the HRF said in its statement.

The activists also pointed out any construction on a wetland violates the Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules as well as the Biological Diversity Act.

“The NEAA order vindicated our stand. Instead of resuming the 972 acres given to the NCC, the government issued G.O 329 in September 2015 facilitating the setting up of a ‘multi-product industrial zone’ by the NCC. This compounds the collective criminality. Governments are supposed to preserve precious ecosystems for future generations, not be actively complicit in their wanton destruction,” the HRF stated.

“The deleterious impacts of aqua farming are well known. It destroys local ecosystems and pollutes the land and water. In the wetland area, this would mean the discharge of waste, pesticides and other chemicals directly into a fragile and priceless wetland. This is a low-lying swamp area serving as a rich biological wetland with high ecological importance. This unique habitat ought to be preserved, not handed over to corporate criminals out to inflict irreversible damage,” the organisation added. 

The activists also demanded that the government take immediate steps to halt any construction by NCC in the area adding that G.O 329 must be revoked.

 

Read: The Sompeta agitation lives on: How the police killing of 3 men fuelled a battle for the wetland

 

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