THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Green activists in the state have expressed their shock over the government’s response to the recommendations of the Western Ghats Expert Ecology Panel ( WGEEP) that seek a ban on mining activities in the eco-sensitive zones (ESZ) in Kerala.

The government, in its response, said that a complete ban of mining in ESZs would put lakhs of migrant labourers from other states at the receiving end and would create unpredictable and adverse consequences in the industrial, economic, labour and social sectors in the state.

Environmentalists said that that there are just a minuscule number of migrant labourers working in quarries and many of them are operating illegally, in complete violation of environmental laws.

“We already have many illegal quarries operating in eco-sensitive zones along the Western Ghats in Wayanad and Idduki districts. It is shocking that the government, instead of acting against them, wants more number of quarries to be opened up in these eco-fragile areas,” said G Kunhikrishnan, associate professor of Zoology at the University College.

He said that the state should be more concerned about the livelihood of the local community living along the Western Ghats and the long-term sustainability of environment than the loss of employment opportunities for a few hundred migrants working in these quarries.

“The state is now playing into the hands of the mining mafia which wants to open up this lucrative sector in the name of development. We are already seeing many local agitations by residents against quarrying, be it at Mukkunnimala in Thiruvananthapuram or at Sulthan Bathery in Wayand,” Kunhikrishnan said.

The government, in its submission, had also mentioned that taluks like Manthavady, Sulthan Bathery, Udumbanchola, Thodupuzha, Peerumedu, Devikulam, Vythri, Ranni, Pathanmthitta and Punalur have minerals resources and they are the only source of building material and other minerals for the state.

Environmental activists point out that a study conducted by the Centre for Earth Sciences showed that there has been an increase in landslides in districts like Idukki due to continuous quarrying along the eco-sensitive zones in the Western Ghats.

“The state’s view that mining is occurring in a lesser area (80% of the mining operations are in less than five hector area) is not correct. The miners have been using this clause as a ploy to get more number of mining leases and then operate in many benami names. They have been splitting up the leases into many small blocks and eventually destroying an entire green zone and its residential neighbourhood,” said Harish V, legal coordinator of One Earth, One Life.