Draft proposals for formation of authority

The Vembandu-Kol Eco Development Authority (VEDA) will ensure a ‘sustainable and healthy Vembanad socio-ecological system which supports its rich biodiversity and the livelihood needs of the stakeholders,' according to the draft proposals for the formation of the authority. (The proposals, prepared by the State government, have been circulated among stakeholders).

The VEDA will have jurisdiction over 38 grama panchayats, three municipalities, the Corporation of Kochi, and certain areas of Alappuzha, Kottayam, Ernakulam, and Thrissur districts as the water spread of the lake extended over these districts.

The authority's governing body will be headed either by the Chief Minister or the Minister for Environment. The Minister for Water Resources will be the vice-chairman and the Ministers of Agriculture, Revenue, Fisheries, and Tourism will be its members. The Secretary, Environment Department will be its Member Secretary. The members will include the MPs and MLAs from the constituencies concerned, the Chief Secretary, and Secretaries in the Departments of Forests, Water Resources, Agriculture, Revenue, Fisheries, and Tourism.

An empowered committee for taking administrative decisions, a management committee for local planning and consultation, and a technical advisory committee had been envisaged in the draft proposals.

Conservation mandate

The socio-economic and environmental appraisal of the natural resource management, infrastructure development, and area development plans of the civic bodies will be the responsibility of the authority. It will guide the sustainable development of the area. All local bodies will consult the authority on matters of environmental implication, land use, and infrastructure development while formulating of their annual and five year Plans.

The protection and conservation of the ecological system and its resources, long-term monitoring of the physical and biotic ecological elements, all-round development involving environmentally benign, multi-dimensional, and multi-disciplinary programmes will also be the mandate of the authority.

The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) had earlier notified the lake as a Critical Vulnerable Coastal Area (CVCA) in the Coastal Regulation Zone notification, 2011. It was also included in the National Lake Conservation Programme of the MoEF. The authority will be responsible for the implementation of the Integrated Coastal Zone Management Plan as part of the CVCA.

The Vembanadu-Kole wetland system, one of the three Ramsar sites in Kerala, is the largest estuarine system of the western coastal wetland systems. It is a complex aquatic system, which is spread over 1,521.5 sq.km., has 96-km coastal backwaters, lagoons, marshes, mangroves, and reclaimed lands with networks of natural and man-made canals.

Legal responsibility

The implementation of the Wetland (Management and Conservation) rules, Kerala Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetland Act in its jurisdiction will be the mandate of VEDA. It will also serve as the wetland board for Vembanad under the proposed Kerala Irrigation and Water Conservation Act, according to the proposal.

It has been suggested to divide the wetland region in each district into four units. Unit-level executive committees will be formed for administrative and management purposes. The draft proposals have been circulated among various stakeholders for eliciting their views, according to officials.

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