Ahead of the Kerala assembly polls on May 16, the Congress-led UDF government in the state has landed in trouble for according sanction to reclaim about 430 acres of 'kayal backwaters' and paddy fields for commercial purposes in alleged violation of norms.
The controversy per se
The government has come under attack for its order issued in the first week of March for reclamation of 378 acres of the 'Methran Kayal backwaters' wetland at Kumarakom village in Kottayam district and 47 acres of paddy fields at Kadamakuddy in Kochi.
While the land in Kumarakom was earmarked for an eco-tourism project which proposed setting up of an ultra-luxurious five star hotel and resorts, the Kochi land was meant for setting up a multi-super-speciality hospital mooted by two private sector companies.
The reclamation order assumes significance in the wake of objections raised earlier by Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee President V M Sudheeran.
Chandyspeak on the issue
Reacting to the development, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said the government had only followed up on a project approved "in principle" by the previous LDF regime.
"If there is any anomaly in the order, the government will definitely look into it," Chandy reiterated.
Slamming the government on the issue, CPI (M) state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan alleged corruption in the deal and said LDF would reconsider the orders and decisions taken by the present government in a month if it comes to power.
CPI(M) veteran and Opposition leader V S Achuthanandan said both projects would cause ecological damage as these violate the rules under the Kerala Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetland Act 2008.
The Kerala High Court has ordered maintenance of status quo by all parties concerned in the matter of a paddy field in the ecologically sensitive Kumarakom in Kottayam district.
The order was issued by Justice A Mohammed Mustaq considering a plea filed by paddy cultivator N K Alexander against the sanction given by the Kerala government to a private developer to use 378 acres of paddy land at Methran Kayal Padasekharam in Kumarakom for a tourism project.
The petitioner submitted that he owns 7.8 hectares of paddy land in the village and that such a project coming up would have an adverse impact on his agriculture activities. He held that since the said area falls in the Ramsar site as a protected wetland, any activity other than paddy cultivation would affect his rights.