Government committee has given go-ahead for operations

Seaplanes may take off from lakes in Kerala as they have got the go-ahead of an expert committee.

A government-appointed panel has concluded that seaplanes will not impact the ecosystem and fisheries and can be operated from the Vembanad and Ashtamudi lakes.

The panel headed by Tourism Secretary Suman Billa submitted the report to the Chief Minister on Wednesday. It had B. Madhusoodana Kurup, Vice Chancellor, Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences; K.G. Padmakumar, former Associate Director of Research, Regional Agriculture Research Station, Kumarakom; K. Madhu, Principal Scientist, Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute, Kochi; and S. Anil Kumar, Managing Director, Kerala Tourism Infrastructure Limited, as members.

The panel was appointed in the wake of apprehension raised by inland fishermen that the operations would impact inland fish production and their livelihood.

The panel suggested Vattakayal, near Kainakari, for a waterdrome instead of Punnamada, an active fishing area. Vattakayal is “almost cut off from the main Vembanad Lake and is a more suitable location since it is not serving as a major fishing ground”, it said.

The “core area needed for the actual take-off and landing is insignificantly small compared to the vastness of the water body” and the “wave turbulence experienced during landing and take off is too low”, it said.

The turbulence is lesser than what is created by a speed boat. Seaplanes use a gliding system during its landing. No bilge water or sewage is discharged from the vehicle during its operation, the committee observed.

The panel suggested case-to-case basis clearance for the waterdromes proposed in the State.

Seaplanes will not cause any pollution and significant physiochemical and biological effects on the water quality and biota in the lakes. The panel members studied the seaplane operations in the Andaman Nicobar Islands and collected the physiochemical and biological parameter of water before and after the landing, said a panel member.

The resentment of the fishermen, the panel said, was “not against the seaplane project per se but to the drastic deterioration of the environmental quality and depletion of fish wealth and biodiversity of the inland water bodies of Kerala”.

The government should curb pollution in the backwaters and implement a programme for livelihood enhancement of the fishermen. Open water cage farming for women should be promoted on all locations of the seaplane project, it said.

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