In a controversial move that would spell doom for the Western Ghats areas, the Left government in Kerala has given direction to change existing rules to allow mining in the forest land assigned for special purposes. Once the amendment to the rules becomes a reality, granite quarrying in hundreds of hectares of ecologically sensitive plots would be legalised. 


As per the Kerala Land Assignment Rules (1964) section 4, using the assigned land for purposes other than building house and agriculture is a violation of the act. The government could cancel the assignment if any violations were noticed. 


The decision to consider changes in the rules of the Land Assignment was taken at a high-level meeting chaired by the Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan last December. The meeting directed the Land Revenue Commissioner to consider amending the land assignment rules to give permission to mining in plots assigned for special purposes, mainly for agriculture and for building houses for the homeless. The officer was also asked to take further steps on that. 


When the quarry lobby exerted pressure during the previous UDF rule, the Oommen Chandy government had issued an order to allow mining in assigned land. But the order was quashed by the Kerala High Court. The LDF government is now planning to amend the very rules so as to bypass a possible judicial intervention. Though the UDF government had decided to bring in an amendment, it could not go ahead with it because the election dates were declared soon after.


Once the amendment comes into force, mining lobby could take the opportunity to start quarries across the state in plots close to the Western Ghats.