Thiruvananthapuram: On a 35-km march, hundreds of protesters, including tribals, reached the Assembly complex here on Wednesday raising slogans against the government's proposed decision to set up a 'waste-to-electricity' plant at Peringamala in Agasthyamala, a biodiversity hotspot.
The march began on December 3 from Peringamala, which is one of the six locations in Kerala identified for waste-to-energy projects.
The project site is surrounded by forest land and also houses a tribal settlement on one side.
Peringamala, 35 km from Thiruvanathapuram, and nearby areas are part of the Western Ghats and in the foothills of Agasthyamala, which is under under UNESCO's world list of biosphere reserves.
"The proposed plant would be eco-friendly and trees will be planted around and gardens will be set up.
The plant will use modern technology to manage the solid waste as per the current rules and regulations," Minister for Town Planning and Rural Development A C Moideen told the Assembly on Wednesday.
However, local residents and nature lovers, who were marching for the last two days, were not ready to buy this government version.
"We have heard all sorts of explanations like this. Instead of finding some place where there are no ecological concerns, the authorities have selected Peringamala, where the adjacent areas are rich with flora and fauna," wildlife photographer Sali Pangode told PTI.
He said the government has identified the land for the waste-to-energy plant bordering the Chittar river.
"The river merges with various other small rivers before reaching the sea and in between there are around 38 drinking water projects. The waste plant is going to affect all," the photographer said.
Wildlife enthusiast Praveen Muraleedharan said the area is home to the Great Indian Hornbill, Nilgiri Tahr, tigers and elephants.
"The Agasthya hills and its valleys are itself an ecosystem. It's home to the Great Indian Hornbill which is listed as vulnerable because of its decreasing population. The area is one among the 12 biodiversity hotspots in the world," he said.
He also said the proposed plant is located at a 'Myristica swamp', which are the most endangered forest ecosystems in India.
Myristica swamps are a type of freshwater swamp forest and occur on either side of 'first order streams.'
A field study by a team of ornithologists had earlier noted that the area is home to rare species of birds, bees and butterflies.
State pollution control board chairman K Sajeevan said the board has received a complaint on the matter and sent notice to the people concerned for hearing next week.
The protests have been going on for around 150 days in which local residents and the tribes are agitating against the proposed plant.