GCDA proposes to reclaim 150 hectares of backwaters, says complaint
The dream projects of the Greater Cochin Development Authority (GCDA) proposed at Marine Drive have run into trouble with the Kerala Coastal Zone Management Authority (KCZMA) initiating a probe into complaints of massive reclamation of backwaters.
The meeting of the KCZMA held in Thiruvananthapuram in August discussed a complaint filed by the Association for Environmental Protection, Aluva, in detail and decided to issue a notice to GCDA. The complaint said that the GCDA proposed to reclaim 150 hectares of backwaters for implementing the second stage development of Marine Drive scheme. It is learnt that notices will be issued to the GCDA, Mulavukadu panchayat, and Kochi Corporation and information on this would be sent to the District Collector and Secretary, Department of Local Self-Government.
The second phase development of Marine Drive includes extending the walkway further up north and some ambitious projects like dolphin Park, cable car, and laser show. The GCDA has already initiated discussions with foreign experts for the cable car and dolphin park projects.
The authority held discussions with London-based British Ropeway Engineering Co. Ltd. (Breco), for the proposed cable car project – the first phase of which was expected to come up between the Marine Drive Shopping complex and the Goshree Bridge where the GCDA walkway ends, and to be extended till Rajendra Maidan in the second phase.
The authority is also talking with representatives of the Dolphin Park at Singapore for the proposed park here. The team was to analyse the quality of water at the area between the Rainbow Bridge and Market Bridge that has been identified as the site for the Dolphin Park.
All these projects are now facing opposition from environmentalists. Raising the objection, S. Sitaraman, secretary of the Association for Environmental Protection, said that the Dolphin Park had not secured the clearance of the Union Ministry of Environment, but the GCDA seemed to have initiated the work.
As part of this, nearly two acres of mangrove had been destroyed. “Quite unlike the characteristic nature of mangrove, the vegetation in this stretch was found totally dried up. We suspect either diesel or some organic chemical has been pumped to dry up the vegetation. This is a serious issue as not even the State government can take a decision on Vembanad Lake, which is listed as a Ramsar site.” Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance is an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable utilisation of wetlands. The suggestion for compensatory afforestation was also applicable in this case, as it was meant for forest tracts submerged by projects like dams and not for vegetation along the coast, Prof. Sitaraman said.