Kerala assembly ends on stormy note over wetland bill

Pinarayi Vijayan rejected the UDF charge that the amendment would favour realtors. PTI file photo

The 12-day-long Kerala assembly session ended today on a stormy note with the UDF Opposition members protesting against the passing of Kerala Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetland (Amendment) Bill 2018, alleging it would lead to the destruction of the environment.

Congress-led UDF members tore a copy of the bill and trooped out of the House at the fag end of the discussion, alleging that the amendment would virtually result in destroying the remaining paddy and wetlands in the state. Winding up the discussion over the Bill, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan hit out at the UDF and said the amendment was brought with 'social commitment' and that he failed to understand why the Opposition was blindly against it.

Rejecting the UDF charge that the amendment would favour realtors, he said the Bill makes it clear that paddy and wetland can be filled only for government-approved projects. The Chief Minister said that there were also provisions in the new Bill for expanding the paddy cultivation with a view to increasing total paddy production.

State Revenue Minister E Chandrasekharan said when the new law comes into force, it would be able to take up major projects like that of Gas Authority of India Ltd (GAIL) without many hurdles. It was to ensure the protection of paddy land and wetlands, besides smooth implementation of government projects.

Before staging a walkout, Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala said today was a 'dark day' of the assembly as the amendments to the Kerala Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetland Bill would lead to corruption, widespread filling of paddy fields and degradation of the environment. He also took a dig at the ruling LDF and said they themselves had sounded the death knell to the Kerala Conservation Act 2008, implemented by the then LDF government led by CPI(M) Veteran V S Achuthanandan.

The Congress leader also brought to the notice of the House, the conspicuous absence of Achuthanandan today during the debate of the Bill.

Before announcing adjournment of the House sine die, Speaker P Sreeramakrishnan said that President Ramnath Kovind accepted the state's invitation to inaugurate the 'festival on democracy, a programme organised as part of the valedictory function of the diamond jubilee celebration of the Assembly in the first week of August.

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