Kochi will soon be deprived of nearly 20 acres of rich mangrove vegetation following the Kerala State Coastal Zone Management Authority’s (KSCZMA) decision to propose compensatory afforestation for developmental projects initiated by the government and the local bodies.

The authority’s decision to give in-principle approval for the estimated Rs.480-crore Kochi Oceanarium project at Puthuvype will result in removal of over 15 acres of mangrove vegetation.

Mangroves spread over nearly five acres at the Kochi Corporation’s proposed sewage treatment plant site in Mundamveli will face the axe.

The loss at Puthuvype might be bigger and the extent of the destruction of mangroves will be clear only after the completion of the environment impact assessment (EIA) being carried out by a Hyderabad-based agency. The team had twice visited the project site as part of drafting the EIA.

The State Fisheries Resource Management Society (FIRMA), which has undertaken the project, is expected to submit the report before the authority within four months.

Interestingly, the project site falls under Zone-I of the Coastal Regulation Zone. The KSCZMA seems to have ignored a recent assessment made by the Centre for Earth Science Studies that Puthuvype’s mangrove cover has come down from 314 acres to 185 acres over the last five years.

It is reliably learnt that the stance taken by the authority’s senior officials that government-led projects should not be held up for want of environment clearance has invited criticism from within the agency. Two members of the authority had vehemently opposed extending in-principle approval for the oceanarium project.

They recalled a directive issued by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests that reclamation, building bunds, disturbing the natural course of sea water, destruction of mangroves and construction-developmental activities were prohibited in areas coming under Zone One of the Coastal Regulation Zone.

Senior officials of the Social Forestry wing at Ernakulam confirmed that they have started processing a request made by the Kochi Corporation for carrying out mangrove afforestation to compensate the loss of about 16,000 square metre of coastal regulation zone area for its sewage treatment plant at Mundamveli.

The civic body had assured the coastal management authority that it would plant at least three times more mangrove vegetation, which was lost in the region following the reclamation.

An expert panel appointed by the authority had earlier found that the Corporation had failed to seek Coastal Regulation Zone clearance from the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) and KSCZMA for the project.

The report submitted by the panel had said that the area was part of Vembanad backwater and was defined as a Critically Vulnerable Area (CVC) in the CRZ (2011) notification. Reclamation and cutting of mangroves were carried out in the area in violation of the provisions of the Coastal Regulation Zone notification 2011.

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