The coastline between Chavara and Alappad in Kollam district of Kerala tells a decades-long story of survival against the sand mining. Since 1960s, this region witnessed extensive mineral beach sand mining and one can notice abandoned buildings where people once lived.
To be crystal clear, one by one villages are vanishing from the map of Kerala.
From December 2004 when tsunami struck India’s coast, the Arabian sea started claiming the 17-km long region Alappad as the village lost 129 people.
From then, the sea is claiming the land where the public sector company Indian Rare Earths Limited (IREL) remains engaged in indiscriminate mineral sand mining.
As per reports, the area of the panchayat has shrunk from 89.5 sq km to 7.6 sq km in the last two decades. This means the sea has swallowed over 20,000 acres of land.
The youth in Alappad started a hashtag campaign #SaveAlappad on social media after the 70 days of relay hunger strike by the residents demanding an end to the minela sand mining.
Cibi Boney, a local panchayat member of the Revolutionary Marxist Party (RSP) said, “By the next monsoon, the sea will reinforce its attempts to claim the land by breaching the remaining sand wall. Doomsday is not far away and Alappad will soon disappear from India’s map.”
Environmental activist and lawyer Hareesh Vasudevan said, “What Alappad is witnessing now is a blatant violation of the National Mineral Policy, Environment Protection Act, Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ), and Kerala Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetland Act. Only two weeks ago, the sea entered the backwaters at Vellanathuruthu, a mining site in the panchayat that had a width of 3.5 km.”
He added, “The Valiyazhikkal-Thottappilly stretch is a highly erosion-prone coastline. The mineral-rich sand coast had acted as a sea wall protecting the area from erosion, and prevented sea water from flowing on to the rice fields in Kuttanad, which are close to this area as well as below sea level.”