Illegal encroachment of backwaters is rampant and this can be arrested only by completing the ring road: GCDA chairman
Without directly responding to complaints that the Ring Road and second phase of Marine Drive projects go for extensive reclamation of backwater, chairman of Greater Cochin Development Authority (GCDA) N. Venugopal said these initiatives counter the rampant encroachments.
“Along the stretch from Marine Drive to Chathiath, nearly 350 houses have come up in 8 to 9 cents, all reclaimed illegally. The Chathiath Church is currently negotiating to regularise the reclaimed land behind it. Illegal encroachment of the backwater is rampant and this can be arrested only by completing this road,” Mr. Venugopal told The Hindu.
A meeting of the Kerala State Coastal Zone Management Authority (KSCZMA) held recently at Thiruvananthapuram decided to issue a notice to GCDA on the basis of a complaint by the Association for Environmental Protection, Aluva, against the proposed move to reclaim 150 hectares of backwater for implementing the second stage development of Marine Drive scheme.
The KSCZMA had also turned down a request in February for reclamation of 50 acres for the first phase of the 65-km-long Ring Road connecting Marine Drive and Kumbalam. “Even though the request for reclamation was turned down, we were given the permission to go ahead with the road project. The Union government has funds under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) for this road,” he said.
Mr. Venugopal added that the houses built on illegally reclaimed land have been regularised with the State government giving electricity connections to houses that didn’t even have house numbers. “The houses, now known as Janakeeya Colony, will set a trend for further reclamation unless it is stopped.”
The GCDA is also planning to engage RITES, a Union Government consultancy on project management and engineering, to conduct a study and prepare a detailed project report. “This will cost the authority around Rs. 3.5 crore and hence a decision to engage them will be discussed and taken at the next executive committee.”
Extensive reclamation and absence of management has damaged the waterbody. “Even during high tides, the backwater is no deeper than three feet along the bank. This calls for urgent intervention or else the bank will be lost forever,” he said, adding that the residents of Vaduthala support the construction of Ring Road.