Alappad: A tale of lost land to mineral sand mining

Abandoned homes, deserted school, heaps of sand, a lone temple and dried up mangroves.

These are the remnants of a once green Ponmana village under the coastal Alappad panchayat in Kollam district in southern Kerala where locals are up in arms against beach sand mining, blaming it for sea erosion eating up their lands.

They claim hamlet after hamlet was 'disappearing' from the map due to mining activities by the Indian Rare Earth (IRE), a central Public Sector Undertaking, and state government-owned Kerala Minerals and Metals Limited (KMML).

Seeking to save their remaining villages, the people of Alappad and nearby hamlets under the banner of Anti-mining People's Protest Council have been on a relay-hunger strike at Vellanathuruthu near here for the past over two months demanding a complete halt to the mining activities.

However, an official of the IRE, when contacted, said the company was following all mining norms.

The two firms together have been engaged in mineral sand mining along the beach off the Kollam coast since the 1960s.

This PTI correspondent saw deserted houses, roads and dried up mangroves in Ponmana village with the protesters claiming this was the scene in several other hamlets too.

In Ponmana, only two families remain, a resident said.

According to the protesters, a lithographic map decades ago had shown the area of Alappad panchayat as 89.5 square kilometre and it has now shrunk to a measly 7.6 square km due to sea erosion caused by the mining.

Alappad is a narrow stretch between Trivandrum-Shoranur (TS) Canal and the Arabian Sea that was commissioned between the 18th and 19th century.