Kottooly, one of the five notified wetlands in the State, is facing threat from a sewerage treatment plant (STP) to be built as part of a multi-crore sewerage project of the Kozhikode Corporation under the Kerala Sustainable Urban Development Project (KSUDP). Five acres of the sprawling wetland, which houses a wide variety of flora and fauna, will have to be filled for the plant.

However, residents of the region have decided to put up a fight to save the ecologically sensitive area, a portion of which constitutes the Sarovaram Bio-Park. On Wednesday, people from around 10 residents’ associations united against the KSUDP’s attempt to fill a stream lined with mangroves to construct an approach road to the proposed site. Secretary of Eranhipalam Palat Residential Association I.K. Biju told The Hindu that construction activity is prohibited in the land.

“Yet, the government is undertaking massive construction activities there, damaging the region that houses a large number of rare and endangered plant species, including mangroves. The land identified for the plant is a massive wetland. It is a perennial water reservoir and at the same time protects the surrounding areas from flooding. The approach road to the site cannot be built without filling a whole stream where most of us learned to swim. How can the authorities claim that such large-scale filling of the wetland will not affect the ecosystem?” he asks.

On the other hand, K.K. Othenan, Technical Officer (Water and Sewerage) of KSUDP, said the project was being executed after proper clearance. He said that the KSUDP had obtained clearance from State Pollution Control Board, Coastal Regulatory Zone, and Forest Department. The 13 acres of land was obtained from the Kerala Water Authority, out of which five acres are being filled now. “The construction is well planned and overseen by experts. We would not have obtained clearance if the project was hazardous to the eco-system,” Mr. Othenan said. He said that alternative locations were suggested for the plant, but nothing materialised. “The plant is being built as part of a Rs.100-crore sewerage project as per the directions of the Supreme Court. It is being built at a cost of Rs.24 crore while Rs.8 crore is being spent for the land filling alone,” he said.

However, residents said clearances were obtained by furnishing wrong data. “We respect the Supreme Court Order. But the Supreme Court did not order destruction of a valuable wetland. In fact, the government could have saved Rs.8 crore if they had chosen a firm ground for the plant instead of a wetland with more than six feet deep water,” said N. Velayudhan, president of the residents’ association said.

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