Convert farmland, lake into tourist city – CPM Bid for UAE based Jihadi group

published on July 21, 2010

CPM bid to convert farmland, lake into tourist city

VR Jayaraj | Kochi – Daily Pioneer

The Marxists, it seems, can never draw lessons from experiences. Despite the experiences at Singur and Nandigram in West Bengal and Kinalur, Valanthakkad and the mangrove forests of Kannur in Kerala, the Industries Department of Kerala looked after by a CPI(M) Minister is determined to transform 417 acres of rice fields and lakes in the State into a tourist city for a UAE-based corporate giant.

The proposal has already run into trouble with environmentalists, farmers’ forums and CPI(M)’s own coalition partner CPI raising serious objections to it. The CPI’s Ministers took a firm position that the project could not be allowed the moment Industries Minister Elamaram Kareem of the CPI(M) presented the proposal before the Cabinet earlier this week.

The Industries Department’s proposal is to develop 417 acres of rice fields and backwaters of Methran Kaayal near the famous Kumarakom tourist centre in Kottayam district into a traveler’s town with golf course, luxury hotel and other facilities. Agriculturists point out that such a project would spell doom to rice-farming in the fields and cause irreparable damages to the unique lake-based ecosystem of the area.

Kareem is known for his devotion to big project proposals without much regard for environmental issues. He is yet to get out of the controversies he himself had created by favouring the establishment of a corporate techno-city in the Valanthakkad mangrove forests, known as the lungs of Kochi city, and his move for a forced takeover of lands from villagers to construct a four-lane highway through Kinalur in Kozhikode to a place where no industries were even proposed.

The estimated cost of the tourism city project proposed for Methran Kayal backwaters in Kumarakom is Rs 2,500 crore and the identified promoter is said to be a giant Ras Al Khaimah group. The plan is to develop the country’s largest golf course, luxury hotel, tourist villas and other travel-related facilities by reclaiming the farmlands and lake. However, local CPI(M) leaders of Kottayam said they had no information about such a project.

Farmers in Kumarakom said the background work for the project has been going on for the past four years. “Unknown people, assisted by CPI(M) bosses, have been forcing small farmers to sell their lands to them quoting high prices,” said a paddy farmer in Kumarakom.

A senior official in the Agriculture Department agreed to this, saying several acres of farmland had been lying without cultivation for the past four years. “Everybody knows that such projects would not be sanctioned in cultivable lands. That could b e the reason why they bought these lands and forced farmers to stop cultivation so that they can argue that there is no farming here,” he said.

When the proposal was presented before the Cabinet on Monday evening by Kareem, CPI Ministers Mullakkara Ratnakaran (Agriculture), KP Rajendran (Revenue) and Benoy Viswam (Forest and Environment) opposed it. Ratnakaran said the Government could not sanction such projects when it was trying to convert wasted lands into farmlands through special legislations.

Convinced that the project would not take off without the clearance from the Agriculture, Revenue and Environment Ministries, Finance Minister TM Thomas Isaac, who shared the pro-corporate development theory of Kareem, proposed that the issue be discussed in the LDF. But this proposal did not get any support. Kareem tried to get an in-principle clearance from the Agriculture Department, but Ratnakaran rejected this plea as well.

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