Jeremy Truex:

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Today was a pretty laid back, yet interesting day for our trip. Our morning started downstairs in the dining room of our homestay, with a nice home cooked breakfast of juice, toast, and eggs which were all delicious. After breakfast we dropped off our laundry to the owners and got our belongings ready for our trip of the day. We headed out at about 930 this morning on the bus, and after not being able to take the ferry to the location we were trying to go, so we had to drive around the bay to where our boat for our trip was. We arrived at the harbor about 20 minutes later, grabbed some water, and loaded on to the covered boat for a tour down the river, as well as a lecture on how the development of the area has affected the environment.

Once on the boat, our guide explained to us that all development was banned due a wetland protection act to prevent the destruction by the creation of buildings. Unfortunately, private contractors have bought land and are allowed to build close to the water due to a loophole in the law, letting them build these structures if they are within a certain distance of the main road. Also, we noted that there were many fishing nets that were apparently set up by the Chinese a few centuries back, and the process is still continued today.

Along our long journey down the river, we saw many docks that were at the end of roads are behind people’s homes. Attached to these docks were small boats, some motorized and some standard paddle boats that were used for traveling and fishing. Also, with the boats were these circular saucers like things, which were apparently boats. We saw these things in the water with people actually fishing in them and they proved to work very well.

After about 2 hours, we reached the destination where an environmental activist was supposed to meet us. Due to our boat running late he had left, but he returned shortly after our arrival. He spoke to us about the industrial plants that were right down the river from where we were docked, stating that over the past 30 years they have been dumping in and polluting the water in the river, affecting the health of everyone in the area. He said that over 10 million fish have been killed off and the amount of fish remaining is very scarce, as well as that the water is nowhere near acceptable to drink.

The people in the area are pushing for the factories to leave or change the way they run their production, as well as restitution for damages and health problems caused by the establishment and operation of the factories. However, we were told that the factories do supply fresh drinking water for the locals so that they can safely have something to drink.

The activist said that the 240 industries are worried about the protestors, not just because of the environmental and health issues they are talking about, but also that they are afraid that they are agents or spies for DOW chemical. Because of this, and the fact that many of the factories are government owned, and bring in many of their employees from outside of Kerala, they are trying to label the group as eco-terrorists to get them out of the way.

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