The protest of the residents of Peringamala against the State government’s plan to set up a waste-to-energy plant at the panchayat reached the Legislative Assembly on its 167th day on Wednesday.
The strong crowd, consisting of a large number of women and children, chanted the slogan “We don’t need treatment plant”, giving a clear signal that the authorities will have a hard task ahead in trying to implement the project.
The three-day protest march titled Sankada Jaatha (march of sorrow) began from Peringamala on Monday, making stops at Chullimanoor and Peroorkada over the past two days, and organising a number of explanatory meetings in between, to convey their concerns regarding the plant to the larger public. They sat holding placards depicting the biodiversity of the Peringamala area, an ecologically fragile region that is part of the Agasthyamala Biosphere Reserve.
For many of the protesters, it was the memory of the sufferings of the people of Vilappilsala, where a centralised waste-treatment plant had to be shut down, which made them join the protest march keeping aside personal commitments.
“When they arrive to set up such plants, they would assure us that it is completely safe, but we have seen how things will turn out eventually, as at Vilappilsala. Why should they locate the plant in such an area by spoiling the forests and waterbodies?” asks Suja, a protester.
‘Threat to job’
According to the plan announced by the State government, the waste-to-energy plant is to come up in an area now under the district panchayat’s farm. Even employees of the farm were at the protest on Wednesday.
“The plant would come up in a large area inside the farm. If something goes wrong, it could be a threat to our employment too,” says Radhamani, who has been working in the farm for ten years.
But the major concern expressed by everyone is on how the plant, proposed to be located right by the side of the Chittar river, would spoil the river, source of more than 40 drinking water projects in the district.
According to the organisers of the stir, the successful protest earlier this year against the Indian Medical Association (IMA)’s biomedical waste treatment facility at the same panchayat made it easy to galvanise people this time for the protests. Leaders from various political parties, including Palode Ravi, K.S. Sabarinathan, MLA, BJP district president S. Suresh, environmentalist C.R. Neelakandan, and others joined the protest.