KOCHI: The Kerala High Court on Tuesday stayed the government order to fill vast tract of ecologically sensitive paddy-field and backwaters at Kumarakam in Kottayam, known as methran kayal, for a major tourism project proposed by a private developer.
The Congress government had given nod for reclamation of ‘the methran kayal‘ at the famous tourist destination at Kumarakam three days before the notification for the assembly elections was announced.
The government decision, which amounted to flagrant violation of the Kerala Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetland Act-2008, had come under sharp criticism from the Congress itself.
Acting upon the petition of a farmer named Alexander, the bench of Justice Muhammed Mustaq ordered that status quo should be maintained in the issue and banned construction activities at the project site.
Last week, the government had issued an order allowing Chennai-based Rakindo Developers Pvt Limited to fill 376 acres of paddy field and backwaters at Kumarakam for a tourism project worth Rs 1,000 crore.
The government allowed reclamation of the paddy field, disregarding the adverse reports from the departments of agriculture, fisheries, environment and local self governing.
Besides, the Assembly subject committee too had registered its dissent for granting sanction for the proposed tourism project at the cost of paddy fields and backwaters. However, to overcome the objections raised by various departments, the government had got a report from the district collector, which said the proposed site was not suitable for farming.
As the government decision on the eve of election notification became controversial, Congress state president V M Sudheeran publically stated that the decision should be revoked. He said such controversial decisions do not bode well for a government at election times. He urged CM Oommen Chandy and Revenue Minister Adoor Prakash to review the decision taken by the revenue department.
The high court stay came at a time the government indicated that it was ready to revisit the controversial decision. The Opposition had alleged corrupt deal behind the decision.
Methran Kayal Dying a Slow Death
Large areas of the Vembanad lake were transformed into cultivable lands in the beginning of the 19th century, during the reign of Sri Moolam Thirunal, to meet the food requirement of the erstwhile Kingdom of Travancore.
Of these, Methran Kayal, a paddy polder in the Kumarakom panchayat, was the richest land in terms of productivity.
Unfortunately, Methran Kayal has been falling prey to unsustainable developmental activities, which is making land non-cultivable. When cultivated properly, the land had produced more than 10,500 quintal of rice, annually.
Methran Kayal, which was handed over to the Malankara Orthodox Church during the time of Pulikkottil Joseph Mar Dionysious-II by Sri Moolam Thirunal, was also called the ‘Seminary Kayal’.
According to the Orthodox Church, the area was handed over to some farmers for cultivation during the time of Geevarghese Mar Vattasseril (Vattasseril Thirumeni), in return for a stipulated quantity of rice to be given to the Kottayam Old Seminary.
All those who cultivated paddy there were members of the Orthodox Church, except for one Hindu family. All, except the Hindu family, refused to return the land. Then, the Thirumeni asked the Hindu family to keep the land with them.
The Church authorities did not take any legal action against those who held the land against the agreement. Later, an area of around 417 acre went to private parties, which was cultivated until 2006.
Courtsey: The Indian Express /Shaju Philip