Prominent environmental activists from Kochi surveyed the mangroves on Mulavakad island here on Tuesday, only to find that much of the mangrove wealth of the region had been destroyed in the name of development activities.

A group of eight environmentalists set out to survey the state of mangroves in the area.

Ramsar site

“We were shocked to observe that the Vembanad Lake, a Ramsar site, is being invaded by the real estate mafia,” said activist S. Sitaraman.

The Vembanad Lake is protected under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance. It also comes under the highly protected Coastal Regulation Zone – I category.

Encroachments

Despite regulations, the activists found that the lake was being encroached upon at several points through felling of mangroves and land-filling. “The real estate lobbies are secretly constructing ridges in the backwaters at night using floating JCB. They then cut the mangroves and slowly fill up the land with red soil to encroach the water body,” Prof. Sitaraman said.

The activists said encroachers had even put up boundary walls at several parts of the backwaters. The group, which included environmentalists Prof. Sitaraman, Eloor Gopinath, Kuruvilla Mathews, M.N. Giri, T.N. Prathapan, Abdul Rasheed Haji, N.V. Sudeep, and Rinku Chappali, demanded that the district administration take strict action against the encroachers.

“Unless the district administration takes drastic action against these atrocities, the Vembanad Lake will shrink more and more,” he said. According to the environmentalists, the lake has already reduced to a third of its original capacity.

Saline incursion

The reduction in its area is a main cause of saline incursion into the Periyar river. The shrinking of the lake accelerates the reverse flow in the river, increasing the salinity in drinking water at the Aluva pumping station.

Prof. Sitaraman said afforestation of mangroves had been planned, but the programmes remained on paper. Meanwhile, the destruction of common and rare mangroves continued steadily.

As many as 10 acres of mangroves had been felled in Nettoor recently.

Development activities such as the international container terminal had led to the destruction of 110 acres of mangrove, and the fisheries project to 70 acres of mangrove.

The destruction of mangroves using chemicals for the oceanarium project had already begun. All of these were being carried out in violation of rules, the greens said.