In a significant course correction, Agriculture Minister VS Sunilkumar has directed the Secretary of Agriculture to prepare a plan to re-start rice farming at Methran Kayal and the site earmarked for the controversial Aranmula Airport. It also means that two major controversial projects under the previous government get reversed. 
 

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 The previous Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF)  government had landed in a series of controversies for standing strong for a private airport at Aranmula that was proposed to come up in a predominantly paddy and wetland area. The UDF also drew flak by giving the nod for a big tourism project in 378 acres of Metran Kayal wetlands, which came under the purview of  Kerala Conservation of Paddy and Wetland Act, 2009 and the Wetland (Conservation and Management) Rules 2010.

Aranmula Airport controversy

  • Initiated during the first UPA rule, the private airport project evoked local protests. 
  • Along with environmentalists, left parties, BJP and Hindu organisations joined the stir against the proposed project. 
  • A Kerala Assembly Committee and Kerala State Biodiversity Board had recorded strong reservations on the project planned to come up on 700 acres of land. It meant the conversion of nearly 500 acres of paddy/wetland area for industrial purpose. 
  • 18 October 2013:  Kerala High Court interim order stays construction works at the project site. 
  •  28 May 2014: the National Green Tribunal (NGT) cancels the environment clearance granted by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests.  
  •  8 May 2015: he Ministry of Defence withdrew the No Objection Certificate (NOC) to the project.
  • 25 May 2015, the Ministry of Civil Aviation withdrew 'in principle' approval to the proposed Aranmula Airport project.  


Minister Sunilkumar directed the department secretary to submit a project feasibility report by June 17 to restart paddy in the land that lies fallow now. The move comes after a primary survey conducted by department found that around one lakh hectares of land lay uncultivated in the state. 
 

Interestingly, the ministers' initiative was welcomed even by the Congress. Congress leader TN Pratapan, who was very vocal in his protest against the Metran Kayal project, said that it was a positive move and congratulated Sunilkumar for the taking the decision.  
 

BJP leaders, who are at the forefront of the struggle against the proposed airport at Aranmula, also welcomed the decision to resume farming at the site. 

 

Metran Kayal project

 

  • The previous Congress-led UDF govt. Gave the nod to fill 378 acres of wetlands at Metran Kayal in Kumarakom, Kottayam for an eco-tourism project. 
  •  Environmentalists and the LDF raised objections. State Congress chief VM Sudheeran opposed the government decision. 
  •   The nod went against Kerala Paddy and Wetlands Act.
  •  On 6 March 2016, Kerala High Court stayed the refilling of the Metran Kayal wetland area. 
  •  9 March 2016 Kerala Govt. withdrew the controversial decision allowing reclamation of Metran Kayal wetlands.