Protest at Puthuvype

Hundreds, including women and children, are out on the streets protesting against anti-people development policies

Puthuvype, a part of Vypin Island, bordered by Vembanad Lake to the east and Arabian Sea to the west, has become a breeding ground for discussions about people-centered development.

As the indefinite agitation called by residents against the LPG import terminal and storage plant of Indian Oil Corporation got a new momentum, it was high drama in front of the plant when Kerala police unleashed brutal violence. Men were thrashed with latis, women and children arrested and dragged away to the police station.

Protesters tries to give water to the women arrested

Indian Oil Corporation, an Indian petrochemical company, is the largest commercial enterprise in the country. Their plant under construction in Puthuvype is supposed to be the largest of its kind in south India. For environmental clearance of the said project the company provided GPS coordinates of a site owned by the Cochin Port Trust 500 meters away from the sea.

The project was granted clearance provided the construction would not happen within 200 meters of the high tide line. Interestingly, Puthuvype is in the intertidal zone and coastal erosion wears the coast 2–3 meters away every year. When construction started in the said plot, the coast line was about 10 meters away from the compound wall. At present the sea has come into the land so far that the waves are hitting hard on the compound walls.

About 80% of the project is now within 200 meters of the sea, what is aptly named the No Development Zone. This is illegal since clearance for this project does not permit any construction inside this zone.

The residents of this densely populated area have decided to stop this project at any cost. The impending danger of a leak or an explosion like what happened at the IOC terminal in Jaipur is no exaggeration.

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“If any emergencies are to happen, the safety of you and your family lies solely on your hands,” says a pamphlet distributed by the company in the area.

The people of Puthuvype has with them the order of the National Green Tribunal which strictly states construction should not happen within 200 meters of the sea. When this judicial decision is not being followed, the Puthuvypeians are forced to protest out on the streets.

“Their concerns of livelihood loss, environmental and health impacts must be addressed by the State, not crushed in this manner,” the letter signed by renowned activists and environmentalists such as Medha Patkar, Prafulla Samantara, Lingraj Azad, Binayak Sen, Kavita Srivastava, Aruna Roy and many others, said.

They were deprived of sleep and peace when the construction started piling, blowing thick dust into their homes day and night. Their voices of resistance are suppressed by the latis of the police. Bleeding from the face, bones fractured, these people have decided to stop at nothing until their safety is guaranteed.