Maradu municipality saw highest number of wetland reclamations

Most number of “land modifications” in the form of constructions along the banks of Vembanad Lake, considered mostly illegal in the Coastal Regulation Zone regime, has come up in Kochi Corporation area.

A cursory look at the “indicative list” of land modifications prepared by the Centre for Earth Science Studies (CESS), Thiruvananthapuram, revealed that over 500 such constructions have taken place along the coastal stretch lining the city. It was in Maradu municipality that the highest number of reclamation of wetlands has taken place.

However, experts who were engaged in the preparation of the document cautioned that the real magnitude of violations and the quantum of construction may be many fold than what had been documented.

The real extent of land alterations that have happened along the coast can be assessed only through a detailed assessment. The indicative list was compiled with limited resources, including funds and manpower in a short time following an intervention from the Supreme Court.

In a suo motu order, the apex court had directed the Chief Secretary and other officials of the State to file a statement detailing the CRZ violations along the banks of the Lake, said an expert involved in the process.

Going by the conservative estimate by a senior functionary of the Kochi Corporation, over Rs. 2000 crore has gone into the construction of buildings along the coast. Some apartment units have extended construction to Inter Tidal Zone of the wetland. Though the construction could be dismantled, as claimed by some builders, it would leave irrevocable ecological damage, said a scientist.

Historical data available in Google Maps since 2002 were relied upon by the experts for compiling the list of land modifications. The low resolution images belonging to the earlier years were not of much use in tracking the changes. Hence the images from 2002 were taken into account.

Most of the construction activities along the lakeside happened during the last decade when the real estate sector witnessed a boom. Large-scale residential units topped the construction list in Kochi followed by hotels, resorts. Waterfront apartments and hotels and resorts overlooking the lake were in much demand in Kochi, he said.

The Kerala Coastal Zone Management Authority had provided the indicative list of land modifications to the senior officials of the Kochi Corporation at a meeting held here on Wednesday.

The local body is planning to prepare a detailed chart of constructions using the data provided by the CESS. However, it might take a few months to commence the work as the civic officials were engaged in the utilisation of plan funds and other resources before the end of the fiscal, said the official of the local body.

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