Residents Protest ‘GIFT’ City Project in Kerala, Fear Losing Homes
Residents of Ayyampuzha say the proposed GIFT city will have massive environmental costs.
Video Editor: Prashant Chauhan
Video Producer: Saradha Natarajan
On 3 September, through a post on social media, residents in the 19th block of Ayyampuzha village in Kerala’s Ernakulam learned that 220 hectares of land was proposed for a GIFT (Global Industrial Finance and Trade) city.
About 300 families live on the land marked for the project that is a part of the Kochi-Bengaluru Commercial Corridor. The news that the state government may take over our houses as well as fertile agricultural land by February 2021 has impacted us mentally and physically.
Residents feel that the topography of the area will be completely destroyed if the project is implemented here. It is only with great pain that we can see that this area, rich with cash crops, short-term crops and vegetable cultivation, is being transformed into a ‘GIFT City’. Who is this gift for?
The people of Ayyampuzha are against this project because most of them are farmers and poor wage labourers who earn their livelihood by working at farms. If they are asked to evacuate from this area, how will they survive?
“I will not let go of my agricultural land to the government. I am a farmer and I cannot give them my fertile land. If they want land for infrastructure development, they can take barren lands.”Sinto Varghese, Farmer, Ayyampuzha
The worst part has been that till December, neither the people’s representatives nor the inhabitants of the place were informed about this project or given the details of land to be acquired.
“The Collector said that they will be taking over barren land for the GIFT city project. But this is not barren land. Then why are they occupying it? This is agricultural land and a land on which people are living.”Bijoy Cherian, Local Resident, Ayyampuzha
If the proposed project is implemented, not only locals but most of the areas of the gram panchayat and the adjoining panchayats will be in danger, as no one has full information.
Huge Environmental Costs
It is proposed that the Global Industrial Finance and Trade city will bring infrastructural and industrial development to Ayyampuzha village. However, pollution from production and manufacturing units will disrupt fresh air, water, soil, agricultural crops and human habitation. Fresh water and clean air will become alien to the people living here.
Has the government considered these environmental costs?
Ayyampuzha falls under Zone 2 of the ecologically sensitive area. So, the land is unsuitable for construction activities and massive buildings for industrial purposes will adversely affect the ecological balance of the area.
Even if the project is implemented without the residents being displaced, the lives of the people living here will be destroyed.
“In the past years, we have witnessed landslide, heavy rainfall, flood and other natural disasters which make this area totally unfit and unsuitable for any sort of construction work and development projects.”Shyam, Local Resident, Ayyampuzha
Despite the many barren lands and surplus forest lands around, wanting to occupy the agricultural land of Ayyampuzha itself can never be accepted. Therefore, the people here want the government to reconsider the order.
Official’s Response to The Quint
The Quint’s call was dodged by KINFRA (the land acquisition agency under the Kerala Industrial Department) officials for four days and redirected from one official to the other.
Rohit, Media Coordinator of Kochi metro, responded to The Quint’s queries over call. He stated that as per land acquisition rules of 2013, the land owners will be eligible to receive thrice the amount of the land value by the government.
“It is too early to talk about mass evacuation. There is nothing, no such plan. There will no bulk evacuation or mass evacuation or taking over their land.”Rohit, Media Coordinator, Kochi Metro
The official mentioned that the government order was shared with the Ayyampuzha Village Panchayat and all other officials and representatives, including the District Collector.
(All ‘My Report' branded stories are submitted by citizen journalists to The Quint. Though The Quint inquires into the claims/allegations from all parties before publishing, the report and the views expressed above are the citizen journalist's own. The Quint neither endorses, nor is responsible for the same.)
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