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The Indian Express: National Network
Friday, June 22, 2001

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Roy favours dismantling of ‘unviable’ Kerala barrage

Express News Service

Kottayam, June 21: BOOKER Prize winner and environmental activist Arundhati Roy has called for dismantling the Thannermukkam barrage on the Meenachil river to protect the river. She was speaking at an eco meet organised by the Meenachil River Protection Committee here yesterday.

Raising the issue of overkill of rivers in the state, she said that ecosystems have been indiscriminately damaged and people have become unconcerned about it due to over-politicisation.

‘‘It has been proved beyond doubt that the barrage is the root cause of all problems of the river. Though it has come up on the premise that it would enable farmers to cultivate more paddy, experience has shown otherwise. For a projected 20 per cent increase in output, an entire wetland system has been endangered,’’ she said adding that 65 per cent of Vembamnad lake has shrunk with rampant reclamation.

‘‘Just as big dams are economically unviable and ecologically unsustainable, so is the Thannermukkam barrage. Take down the barrage and let the six rivers on its course have a free run,’’ she said.

Arundhati also took strong exception to the Pathiramanal tourism project, which according to her, will only increase the amount of garbage and stagnant water around it. While the dream project will cater to the rich, it will become inaccessible to commoners, she said.

Arundhati also cautioned against placing too much emphasis on tourism. ‘‘Tourism is the most unreliable industry. One little flicker of political unrest or a bout of contagious diseases can turn tourists away. Tourism can never become a substitute for a ruined ecosystem,’’ she said.

In his opening remarks, media personality and anti-nuclear front convener N. Ram called for a debate on curtailing excessive contempt powers vested in the judiciary.

Ram regretted that the judiciary in the country which has contributed much to the freedom of expression, has now begun to show signs of intolerance.
While taking strength from the doctrine of sky-high powers, the courts have however begun to entertain frivolous and malicious litigations.

‘‘The legislatures and the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha should amend the laws to check encroachment of the judiciary, if necessary,’’ he said.

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