Expert panel says project not within realm of port activities

The Cochin Port Trust (CPT) reclaimed land at Mulavukad (locally known as Bolghatty Island) in violation of Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) guidelines, an expert committee has said.

The committee was appointed by the Kerala State Coastal Zone Management Authority to look into CRZ aspects of the reclaimed land on the island, which was leased out to a business group. The group has proposed a luxury hotel, 572 apartments, a 3,400-seater convention centre, a restaurant and a health club at the site at a cost of around Rs. 380 crore.

The four-member committee comprising N. R. Menon, co-chairman, Nansen Environmental Research Centre India; Eapen Varghese, Chief Town Planner; Kurian Sajan, Dean, School of Marine Sciences, Cochin University of Science and Technology (Cusat); and Kamalakshan Kokkal, Joint Director, Kerala State Council for Science Technology and Environment has reported that the “reclamation was done in 2005-2006 without obtaining proper sanction” from the Coastal Zone Management Authority.

The reclamation was done on the assumption that the water-spread area did not violate CRZ rules and the total project cost was less than Rs. 5 crore. However, CRZ regulations, 1991, was applicable to the reclaimed area, the committee reported.

According to CRZ Notification, 1991, the ‘No Development Zone’ is 100 metres from the High Tide Line (HTL). However, the business group has claimed that they “need to leave only 50 metres from the HTL as per 2011 CRZ.”

Reclamation of a water body falling under the CRZ regime is prohibited as per CRZ Notification, 2011, and Wetland Notification, 2010. The activity proposed to be undertaken on the reclaimed area for which the Port Trust was leasing land did not require any foreshore facilities. The proposed project remained outside the realm of port activities. Therefore the action of the Port Trust was in violation of CRZ norms, the committee reported.

The Port Trust has, meanwhile, claimed that they received permission for reclamation and leasing out of land for non-port activities. It was also claimed that the proposed construction in the reclaimed area was certified as a port activity. This factor should be verified by the Coastal Zone Management Authority, the committee suggested.

The panel suggested that only activities permissible under the CRZ Notification, 2011, and related to the port could be allowed on the leased land.

A letter issued by the Ministry of Shipping (Port Wing), in reply to a letter sent by the Chairman, Cochin Port Trust, stating that permission was granted to use the leased land for activities not related to the Port should be brought to the notice of authorities, it said.

The CPT officials argued before the panel that the activities coming up on the leased land were governed by CRZ Notification, 2011.

They also informed the committee that they had “obtained permission from the Ministry of Shipping, Government of India, for long-term leasing of certain plots of land”.

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