In the compound of the Karappuram Lime Shell Vyavasaya (Industrial) Cooperative Society at Muhamma on the banks of Vembanad Lake in Alappuzha lies an enormous pile of white shells price ₹20 lakh with no takers.
The society throughout its glory days had some 800 members who harvested white lime shells (fossilised black clams) from the underside of the lake. Over the years, the demand for the shells out there dwindled and the society’s membership fell to 6. Recently, it determined to completely shift its enterprise from white lime shells to black shells (obtained from the dwelling black clam inhabitants) in a determined try to show round its fortunes. Though it regained some members, the way forward for its lime shell enterprise stays bleak.
Lime shells (white and black), as soon as a much-sought-after uncooked materials for the manufacture of cement, calcium carbide, paper, poultry feed making, and in agriculture for neutralising acidity within the soil, are discovering few takers these days with the entry of low cost alternate options comparable to dolomite and limestone. The conventional sector, which employs round 11,000 individuals straight and tens of 1000’s of individuals not directly within the State, has been dealing with headwinds, and societies are in search of authorities assist to remain afloat.
There are 13 lime shell industrial cooperative societies in Kerala, of which 10 have interaction in black clam lime shell fishery and the remainder in white shell fishery. While the white shell societies, which largely present uncooked materials to cement firms and paper models, have met a dead-end, the black shell sector is discovering the going powerful. According to the societies, the annual enterprise has come down from 50,000 tonnes to lower than 30,000 tonnes in recent times.
“When we look at the figures, the annual shell production has gone up and reached 65,000 tonnes. But the demand for the lime shells is diminishing. The societies collect the shells at the rate of ₹72 per 20 kg. To sustain, we need to sell the material for at least ₹7,000 per tonne. In the meantime, industries are getting alternative materials such as dolomite and limestone for as low as ₹4 per kg. The poultry feed makers in Tamil Nadu earlier used the shells as a calcium supplement. They have almost entirely shifted to limestone. Farmers are increasingly using dolomite to neutralise soil acidity,” says P.Ok. Surendran, president, Karappuram Lime Shell Vyavasaya Cooperative Society, including that unlawful harvesting and indiscriminate assortment of juvenile clams have been worsening the state of affairs.
The societies pay a royalty of ₹80 per tonne and tax to the federal government and, as such, demand the federal government to clamp down on the black market.
“Without the government’s help, we will not be able to survive long. The State government should take the initiative to establish a poultry feed manufacturing unit or any other industrial unit with clam shells as a raw material. The Centre should hike the import tariff of dolomite and limestone. We will try to raise the issues in the sector with Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan when the Navakerala Sadas reaches Alappuzha on December 14,” says Damodaran Ok.S., convener of the Action Council, which acts because the coordination committee of lime shell societies.
Jojo T.D., challenge supervisor, Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and Environment, Alappuzha, says the societies ought to think about establishing models for making value-added merchandise from the shells.