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Villagers engage in turtle conservation against sand mining, northern Kerala, India

This is a well documented case of grassroots conservation of Olive Ridley turtles by local fishermen fighting against the sand mining industry in Kolavipalam beach in northern Kerala.


Kartik Shanker, an expert on turtles in India, and Roshni Kutty from Kalpavriksh (6) documented in 2001 the struggle by  coastal villagers and fishermen in northern Kerala against sand mining. This brought the fishermen in alliance with conservationists. Initially, fishermen did not care about turtles and turtle eggs (except as food) but they became conservationists under the threat of sand mining and mangrove destruction. There is a well known documentary film, 'The Turtle People or `Aamakaar',  about this struggle of the people in Kolavipalam, in Iringal near Payyoli, which faced threats from sand-mining.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Villagers engage in turtle conservation against sand mining, northern Kerala, India
State or province:Kerala
Location of conflict:Kolavipalam, Iringal, near Payyoli
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Biodiversity conservation conflicts
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Wetlands and coastal zone management
Building materials extraction (quarries, sand, gravel)
Aquaculture and fisheries
Specific commodities:Sand, gravel
Biological resources
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Faced by sand mining, mangrove destruction, fishermen of Kovalipalam in northern Kerala started in the 1990s to protect turtles during the nesting season from October to March. They allied themselves to conservationists. The found also an alliance with the forest department. Media publicity (2 (4)) about their protection efforts spread awareness in neigbouring coastal villages. All the 8,000-odd villagers of Kolavipalam joined in the effort to save the turtles.(5).

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Type of populationRural
Affected Population:8,000
Start of the conflict:1992
Relevant government actors:Kerala Forest Department
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Marine Turtle Conservation Action .
Theeram Pakriti Samrakshana Samiti (Coastal Ecosystem Protection Committee).
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Local ejos
Social movements
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Documentary film
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Potential: Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil erosion
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Loss of livelihood, Land dispossession
Potential: Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Court decision (undecided)
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Yes
Briefly explain:The grassroots turtle conservation activities helped to stop sand mining and mangrove destruction. But the struggle is still open.
Sources & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

(1) Kartik Shanker, From soup to superstar. The story of sea turtle conservation along the Indian coast, Harper Collins, 2015, p. 240-244.

(6) K. Shanker and R. Kutty. Sailing the Flagships Fantastic: Different Approaches to Sea Turtle Conservation in India. Mast2005, 3(2) and 4(1): 213–240.
[click to view]

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

(2) The Hindu, Olive Ridley turtles back on Kolavippalam beach.

Staff Reporter. Kozhikode, November 13, 2011.
[click to view]

(5) Bailing out turtles. A Kerala village strives to save Olive Ridley turtles threatened by indiscriminate sand mining. By A Biju Kuma

(5) A Kerala village strives to save Olive Ridley turtles threatened by indiscriminate sand mining. By A Biju Kumar
[click to view]

(3) Olive Ridley turtles abandon Kolavippalam, a favourite breeding ground for the endangered Olive Ridley sea turtles, is withering away owing to the increased sand mining and other destructive activities underway. The Indian Express. 15 Nov 2011.
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

(4) This film depicts the struggles of a small fishing village in North Kerala that is fighting the assault on its estuary by sand mining. The villagers are also engaged in the conservation of Olive Ridley turtles that come to their beach to nest. They make a connection between a species fast becoming extinct and the fate of a community that could face displacement.
[click to view]

Other documents

Olive Ridley turtle eggs
[click to view]

Olive Ridley Turtle
[click to view]

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Last update30/04/2019
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