Over 20 structures on banks of lake in violation of coastal regulation zone norms

Resorts and apartment complexes numbering over 20 and worth over Rs.1,500 crore have come up in violation of the Coastal Zone Regulation (CRZ) guidelines on the banks of the Vembanad lake. In many cases, the structures were constructed after illegally reclaiming the lake, which is a wetland of international importance.

These violations were identified by expert committees of the Kerala State Coastal Zone Management Authority (KSCZMA) on its own and through complaints, said K.K. Ramachandran, member secretary of the authority.

Incidentally, CRZ violations in Vembanad lake, a Ramsar wetland, came under severe criticism from the Supreme Court in one of its judgements delivered last week.

Upholding the Kerala High Court’s decision to demolish the illegally constructed Green Lagoon Resort on Vettila Thuruthu in the Vembanad lake near Eramalloor, the apex court ruled that the protection of the lake, which was undergoing severe environmental degradation due to increased human interventions, was a matter of serious concern for Kerala as well as the country at large.

The Supreme Court, which threw out the Special Leave Petition filed by the promoters of the project, also noted that the conservation of the lake had “immense importance as it supports a large aquatic biodiversity and the most important migrating birds’ habitat. Vembanad lake serves as a habitat to a variety of fin and shell fish and a nursery of several species of aquatic life.”

The authority, after obtaining reports of violations, had issued notices and stop memos to the project proponents and the local bodies concerned. However, in many cases, the local bodies had failed to act. The apathetic attitude of the local bodies and their refusal to respond to the notices of the authority were recently brought to the notice of the Secretary of the Local Self Government Department, Dr. Ramachandran said.

In some cases, the promoters of the projects had moved courts against the decisions of the authority. The KSCZMA is awaiting the outcome of such cases. The onus of implementing the court order for demolishing the illegal stricture is on Panavally panchayat, the authority official said.

Incidentally, human interventions in the form of reclamation and massive encroachments have resulted in a sharp reduction in the extent of the Vembanad lake over the past few decades. The extent of the lake has come down to 97 sqkm against the 148 sq km in the late 1920s, said experts.

When contacted, M. Rajani, president of Panavally panchayat, said the local body would act on the order as soon as it receives the court order. The permission for the construction of the resort was issued during the term of the previous administration. The panchayat committee will meet after August 20 to decide on the follow-up action, she said.

The authority has appointed a four-member committee to look into the complaints of coastal zone regulation violations and illegal reclamations of Kochi backwaters in Mulavukad Island and near Marine Drive. The complaint was filed by N. Ramachandran, secretary of the Association for Environment Protection, Aluva. The sub-committee, which consists of CRZ experts and a revenue department official, will visit the areas and submit a report to the authority.

More In: Kochi