Dredged sand, clay being used under the guise of developing National Waterway III , says eco-activist

In spite of the State government’s announcement that wetlands will be conserved, massive reclamation of Ashtamudi Lake is being reported at Dalawapuram in Kollam.

A large portion of the lake was being reclaimed under the guise of developing the National Waterway III (NW III), environmental activist V.K. Madhusudhanan, who visited the site on Monday, said.

This was happening in spite of the wetland conservation laws in force. The 61.4-sq km lake had now shrunk to 34 sq km due to unauthorised reclamation, Mr. Madhusudhanan said.

It was sad that the current reclamation was being done under the label of a government project.

The unscientific construction of the Dalawapuram bridge across the lake a few years ago had resulted in heavy sedimentation, an impediment to navigation in the area. Prior to the construction of the bridge, the lake there could be used even by large mechanised boats. But, now vast stretches of the lake were not even 6 inches deep during low tide, he said.

A course of the NW-III passed through the area and a contractor was awarded dredging work. It was the contractor’s job to transport the dredged sand and clay way from the place. But, the dredged material was now being dumped on the bank, in a private property and over half an acre of the lake was slowly turning into land, he said.

Mangrove destruction

Pipes had been laid from the dredging site to take the clay and sand directly to the area being reclaimed. A clay embankment had been erected along the site. The reclamation was being carried out after the destruction of a mangrove forest, he said.

Afforestation scheme

The mangroves were planted there as part of a Rs.23-lakh afforestation programme supported by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests during 2005-06. Under the programme, 2.45 lakh mangrove saplings were planted along the banks of the lake. And as environmental activists began questioning the reclamation at Dalwapuram, the labourers of the contractors had cut the branches of the trees in the mangrove area and placed it diligently on the embankment. This was to create the impression that the dredged material was being dumped on a piece of land behind the mangrove area, Mr. Madhusudhanan said.

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