The ray of hope that lingered around the homeless in Vizhinjam seems to be in a haze with the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) deciding to “temporarily put on hold” the city Corporation’s proposal to construct tenements under the Centrally sponsored Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY).
As per a detailed project report submitted by the Corporation to the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation for approval, the civic body, by 2014, planned to provide housing and infrastructure facility for the 1,000-odd residents. Accordingly, the ministry included Vizhinjam in the list of five places in the country where RAY would be taken up on a pilot basis.
But, at a later stage when the project was submitted for environment clearance, the MoEF made it clear that the project as conceived by the civic body could take off only after the Kerala Coastal Zone Management Authority revised the coastal zone management plan for the city and redesign Vizhinjam as CRZ II from its present position of CRZ III.
“The Corporation’s proposal was forwarded to the MoEF for its approval, but the ministry has put on hold the programme for the time being,” Kamalakshan Kokkal, scientist, coastal and environment division of the Kerala State Council for Science Technology and Environment, told The Hindu.
At the time when the project was conceived, Vizhinjam had the status of a panchayat and subsequently it was included in the Corporation limits. But categorisation under coastal management rules remained the same. That means, even after Vizhinjam was brought within the city Corporation limits, it was still classified under Zone III, which prohibits new constructions having more than two floors in the area. Also under the rules, the building height should be within nine m, he said.
The Corporation was of the view that because of space constraints, at least three-storied flats with 300-sq ft floor area had to be constructed to accommodate around 1,000 families. Regulations under Zone III prohibit any such construction activities, said an official.
“Out of the Rs.71.86 crore sanctioned by the Centre for the project, Rs.11 crore had been released. The Corporation too had released around Rs.4 crore as its share. We have even appointed Hindustan Prefab Ltd., a government enterprise, for implementing the project,” another official said. Asked why the place was selected for rolling out the project, the official said Vizhinjam fulfilled all parameters set by the Urban Ministry for implementing RAY.
Mr. Kokkal said they hoped to prepare the new plan by the end of this year. However, non-implementation of the project as per schedule would add woes to the civic body since delay would escalate the cost and the extra amount had to be borne by the Corporation itself.