The police arrested five activists who had adhered to social distancing norms and demonstrated against the pollution in the Periyar river.

On Earth Day environmental activists arrested for anti-pollution protest to save Periyar
news Environment Thursday, April 23, 2020 - 08:04

The police arrested five activists who had adhered to social distancing norms and demonstrated against the pollution in the Periyar river.

‘April 22, Earth Day. Stop polluting Periyar’, read a placard held by one of the five people who stood on the regulator-cum-bridge across the Periyar river in Pathalam, Ernakulam district on Wednesday. The people, part of an anti-pollution struggle that has been going on for years to save the Periyar river from industrial pollution, staged the protest when officials of the Kerala State Pollution Control Board and other officials of the Ernakulam district administration came for inspection.

The protest was peaceful and complied with social distancing norms, but the environmental activists were arrested and moved from the spot by the police. According to the police, Purushan Eloor, Muhammed Iqbal, Shabeer, Anwar and Sakir Husain, were arrested for staging the protest.

The water in the Periyar was black in colour, following which an inspection was ordered by Ernakulam Collector S Suhas. He directed action to be taken against the polluters.

The officials had come for inspection following the order of the district collector.

The activists allege that they were arrested and moved away on the direction of some officials.

“We had complied with all the social distancing norms, had worn masks and were staging protests peacefully, yet we were arrested. There were many others there, including Congress party workers. But only we were arrested. I also came to know that the police had direction from someone to move us from the spot when officials come to collect samples from the river,” said Purushan Eloor.

According to officials of Eloor police, all five persons were booked by police under Sections 143 (unlawful assembly), 147 (Punishment for rioting), 188 (Disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant), 283 (Danger or obstruction in public way or line of navigation) and 149 (every member of unlawful assembly guilty of offence committed in prosecution of common object) of the Indian Penal Code. They were also booked under provisions of the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897.

All five persons were let out on bail later on the day.

Earlier, the activists expressed their displeasure about the district administration directing the KSPCB officials to conduct an inspection, as no actions were taken in the past. On Wednesday, KSPCB officials were accompanied by taluk officers, as directed by Ernakulam District Collector.

Read: Why activists think asking pollution body to inspect Periyar river is inadequate

Videos of the incident, posted on social media, show that the protesters maintained social distancing.

Many slammed the arrest of the environmental activists on social media.

Sridhar Radhakrishnan, director of Thiruvananthapuram-based NGO Thanal that works on agriculture and environment-related issues, said, “Even on Earth Day, criminal factories in the Eloor-Edayar region continue to pollute the river. The environmental activists who protested against it are arrested.”


The Periyar is dying: How south Kerala's lifeline has become an industrial sewage drain

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