Apartment and commercial complexes, resorts, and star hotels have come up on the coast.
Over 10,000 instances of “land modifications,” the majority of which are deemed to be violations of Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) guidelines, have been identified along the banks of the Vembanad Lake.
The Kerala Coastal Zone Management Authority handed over an indicative list of land modifications to the representatives of 38 local bodies which were located along the banks of the lake in the districts of Ernakulam, Kottayam and Alappuzha. The local bodies included the Kochi Corporation, a few municipalities and panchayats.
The local bodies have been asked to crosscheck the findings of the Centre for Earth Science Studies (CESS), Thiruvananthapuram, which drew up the indicative list and to look for other violations which might have escaped the scrutiny.
The land modifications were mostly in the form of reclamation of wetlands, constructions on the CRZ area and reclamation and construction in the highly sensitive coastal ecosystem, which would impact the ecology of the region in a big way.
The CESS drew up the indicative list of violations based on images from Google maps. The centre made use of the high resolution images from Google map and its historical images to track the changes that have taken place in the ecologically important coastal belt.
Massive apartment and commercial complexes, industrial units, resorts, star hotels and restaurants, hospitals and individual residential units have come up over the years along the coast, throwing to the winds the guidelines and restrictions on land use as prescribed in the CRZ notification.
The indicative list provided to the local bodies was complete with the latitude and longitude of the area and a physical map of the panchayat. The local bodies were asked to physically crosscheck the land modifications as identified by the CESS and submit its report to the Local Self-Government Department, sources said.
The findings of the CESS and the verification results of local bodies are subject to public scrutiny. Any error that might have crept into the indicative list or any manipulation in the reports prepared by the local bodies can be easily verified by the general public, warned an expert. Recently, the Supreme Court had upheld the orders of the High Court of Kerala to pull down the luxury resort complex constructed by Kapico Kerala Resorts on Nediathuruthu Island and parts of Green Lagoon resort constructed on Vettila Thuruthu Island in the lake. The court had also directed the authorities to list out CRZ violations.
The historical data of these islands collected by CESS showed how the backwater islands, which had luxuriant growth of mangroves, were reclaimed over the years and its topographical features altered. It had also gathered satellite imageries of various stages of reclamation of the islands, the denudation of the mangrove cover and construction of massive apartment complexes. These data were also considered by the courts during the trial of the case, scientists of CESS said.