A temple constructed close to the wetland that forms the basin of the Kattampally river at Pulluppikkadavu here has drawn protests from a local action committee alleging that the construction is illegal as the area falls under the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ), with the District Collector ordering a ban on any further construction activity at the site.

The construction of the controversial Agasthyamuni temple has landed in controversy since the local action committee, Kaipad Samrakshana Janakeeya Samithi, represented by Ajith Kovval, its chairman, and two others, moved the High Court to stop the construction of the temple on 49 cents of land which they said was a ‘kaipad’ land (wetland under tidal influence) under traditional paddy cultivation reclaimed for temple construction.

They said the area where the temple was being built fell under the CRZ. District Collector Anand Singh in his order said that no further construction activity in this plot in survey number 156/2 in the Puzhathi grama panchayat should be allowed that would affect the wetland nature of the remaining land in the same survey number and block the natural flow of water to the wetland.

The order said that permission had been given for temple purpose and therefore there should be no change in the land use. The building or any other construction in the plot should not be used for any commercial purpose, the order said.

The order was issued as per the directive of the High Court to the Collector to examine the issue and pass order within two months of receipt of the order. The Collector heard the petitioners and the trustee of the temple on May 11 last. The temple authorities argued that the site was not under the CRZ and that the building permission had been obtained in 2007 and that since the Kerala Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetland Act came into force in 2008, the plot in question did not come under the definition of the paddy land.

They claimed that there had been no paddy cultivation in the area for the last 25 years. The permission for construction of the temple was issued by the Puzhathi panchayat on the basis of the letters from then Collector and Principal Agricultural Officer.

The Additional Tahsildar who had been asked by Mr. Singh to submit a report on the construction issue wrote that the 49 cents of land where the temple was situated was not included in the draft of the data bank of the Act 2008.

Mr. Kovval, samithi convener K. Sreejith, and joint convener P. Prashant in a press release took exception to the finding in the District Collector’s order that they could not provide any evidence to suggest that the area would fall under the CRZ.

The Collector’s order states that the area has not been included in the management plan of the State-level authority and is situated on the upper riparian end of the Kattampalli river. The order also finds that the remaining area in the same survey number is wetland. It also directs the panchayat secretary and the principal agricultural officer to ensure that there is no conversion of wetland area beyond the plot where the temple is located.

They said that the fact that the Collector's order did not mention the report submitted by agricultural scientist P.V. Balachandran on revival of paddy cultivation in the Kattampalli ‘kaipad’ area raised suspicion. The samithi would continue its efforts to protect paddy fields in the area, they added.

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