Fisherfolk outfit slams Pinarayi for defending PCB on Periyar fish kill

Farmers claim that the Pollution Control Board’s inability to rein in the industrial units has resulted in the tragedy. Photo: Special arrangement

Kochi: The Kerala Malsyathozhilali Aikyavedi, a prominent fisherfolk outfit, has demanded that Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan be removed from the portfolio of the environment.

The collective's call came on Tuesday soon after Vijayan said in the Assembly that the massive fish kill in the Periyar River on May 20 was due to less dissolved oxygen in the water and there was no discharge of chemical waste from factories into the river.

The Aikyavedi said the chief minister has just repeated the arguments made by the State Pollution Control Board which washed its hands of the responsibility of the fish kill. "The chief minister has ridiculed the common sense of the ordinary people by repeating the stance of polluting industrial units. He has ignored the report prepared by the Kerala University of Fisheries and Oceanic Studies (KUFOS) and the fisheries department which blamed the companies. The move can only be seen as part of the attempt to deny the fisherfolk even the nominal compensation of Rs 13.55 crore recommended by the fisheries department," the organisation said in a statement.

CM Vijayan made the submission, relying on the PCB's findings, in response to a query by opposition MLA TJ Vinod about action taken against those who allegedly discharged chemical waste into the river resulting in the death of the fish.

"According to the preliminary investigation, when the shutter of the Pathalam regulator-cum-bridge was opened following heavy rains, a large amount of oxygen-poor water flowed into the river from the upstream side of the regulator," the CM said.

The Aikyavedi questioned the rationale behind the findings. "How does fish kill happen only when the Pathalam bund is opened and not when bunds at Purappillykkavu or Manjummel are opened? In 2016, the Central Pollution Control Board visited the area following a Supreme Court order and submitted a report. It then reported that there were 286 factories in the region and 106 of them were included in the red list. The report said 40 companies cause severe environmental decay. It was stated in the report that the State PCB did not cooperate with the central board. The National Green Tribunal upheld the observations and even ordered to building of a footpath and deep drainage before May 2023. The chief minister has only repeated the arguments of the industrial lobby which has flouted the order," the statement said.

The statement said the chief minister has become the state spokesperson of the central government's blue economy policy which deserts the fisherfolk and destroys the fishing sector. The statement was issued by Charles George, state president, the Kerala Malsyathozhilali Aikyavedi.

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