Aranmula Wetland Conservation

Wetlands around the Aranmula village in Pattanamthitta district of Kerala encompass 3500 acres of freshwater wetlands and paddy fields in the floodplains of the Pamba river. These biodiversity-rich wetlands are the major source of water for the villages of Aranmula, Mallappuzhassery and Kidangannur, and serve as natural flood breaks when the Pamba river overflows.

An airport (KGS Aranmula Airport; private-public partnership) was proposed in 2007 in the Aranmula wetlands, with direct impact on 500 acres and indirect impact on 3500 acres of wetlands. Aranmula was cited as a central location between the existing International Airports at Thiruvananthapuram and Cochin, and the proposed Airport at Aranmula was aimed at serving the increasing demands of air passengers from Pathanamthitta, Kottayam, Idukki and some parts of Alappuzha districts.

A team (Salim Ali Foundation and consultants) conducted a Rapid Environmental Impact Assessment study on the value and impact of this proposed airport, and submitted a report to the Kerala State Government in March 2012, advocating that such an airport should not be constructed, in the light of biodiversity, ecosystem services and the non-addition of tangible value by the airport.

The salient findings of the study were:
1. The Aranmula airport would be the fifth in Kerala after Trivandrum, Cochin, Kozhikode and the proposed airport at Kannur. Given the size of the state, this would have resulted in a higher density of airports than the national recommendation (150 km distance between airports).
2. The low volume of air traffic in the Kerala would have implied that the nearest two airports, Trivandrum and Cochin would lose air traffic, possibly rendering them unprofitable.
3. Given that the Aranmula wetlands are in the tropics and nested in the biodiverse Western Ghats, the estimated ecosystem services are greater than Rs. 7,39,250/ha, equalling an amount between Rs. 35.48 to 47.31 crores annually.
4. The loss of this area would result in loss of rice and fish production (800 tones of puncha paddy and 320 tones of fish) equalling Rs. 1.2 crores and 1.28 crores respectively.
5. The displacement of people, predicted rise in land prices, destruction of local traditions and culture, and diversion of natural resources (like water) would result in enormous losses to the local communities.

More details can be found in the report submitted to the Kerala State Government. LINK

CURRENT SITUATION
The Aranmula Airport was been cleared by the Kerala State Government in 2009 and the Central Government (Ministry of Environment and Forests) in 2012, and a case countering this was filed by a local resident, Sriranganathan and the Aranmula Heritage Village Action Council (AHVAC) with the Green Tribunal.

SAF PUBLICATIONS
1. The proposed Aranmula Greenfield Airport: its potential ecological, social and economic impacts – a preliminary appraisal. 2012. Report. Salim Ali Foundation, Thrissur.

OTHER RESOURCES
1. Ananmula Heritage Village Action Council
2. Details about Aranmula, its heritage and the protests can be found on their website http://aranmula.org
3. Report submitted by the Aranmula Environmental Committee.
4. Save Aranmula Blogspot

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