Floods and threat to waterbodies no topics for political debates, alleges activist
Activists are peeved at political parties sidetracking multifarious problems posed by environmental degradation and pollution in the run-up to the Assembly polls, despite the havoc caused by the 2018 floods and unprecedented threats to waterbodies and the Western Ghats.
It is shocking that environmental concerns are not making it even to political discussions, says Prof (retd). C.M. Joy, president of Kerala Nature Protection Council. “Leave alone politicians, most people are nowadays apathetic to threats posed to the environment due to unchecked consumerism and corporate greed. Newly formed parties, which speak of value-based politics, too mostly avoid the topic for fear of being labelled as a ‘green party’ or ‘anti-development’. Over the years, the premise has gained ground that parties which take up the cause of the environment do not know how to govern,” he adds.
According to Prof. Joy, the situation is precarious in Ernakulam, where people rely on drinking water from Periyar and Muvattupuzha rivers, which are severely polluted. On its part, the government relaxed quarrying norms, while a prominent church group wants the extent of the buffer zone around protected areas to be reduced from one kilometre. Such moves have resulted in much of the forest land that was taken back from encroachers and real estate players falling back into their hands. Hotels and other vertical constructions in ecologically-fragile lands and covert moves to permit trawlers to net fish en masse are proof of the trend, he says.
Governments and even a section of people nowadays seem indifferent to the need for a healthy environment, says Aziz Kunnapally, State coordinator of Green People, an NGO. Riverine vegetation, which helps clean water and air, is getting destroyed at an alarming pace, under the garb of development. “An apt example is the once pristine Muvattupuzha river into which 14 hospitals and other establishments let out untreated waste. Eleven panchayats and Kochi city are fully or partly dependant on it for drinking water,” he adds.
Call for NOTA
Fed up with the nauseating stench and pollution of the Kadambrayar caused by dumping of garbage by the Kochi Corporation and other local bodies at Brahmapuram, around 1,000 affected families who reside in and around Rajagiri Valley have given a call to voters to exercise the NOTA option, in protest against the alleged apathy of the government and the corporation in finding a sustainable solution to the issue.
“People here have been suffering for the past 12 years. The government and the civic agency must ensure that there is an end to the stench from the premises, by adhering to norms while spraying a compound over the massive garbage heap,” said Siju Remold, a resident of an apartment complex near the Kadambrayar. A permanent solution is to fast-track the setting up of a waste-to-compost plant. The NGT imposing hefty fine on the corporation has also not stirred it into action,” he said.