P. Venugopal

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests has given its clearance for constructing a 17.22-km road along the tide-washed ecologically sensitive stretch linking the site of the proposed container transhipment terminal at Vallarpadam to National Highway 47.

Environmental clearance for the road was crucial for the Vallarpadam project. The clearance from New Delhi reached the Chief Minister's office on Thursday.

The stretch falls within the Cochin port limits from Bolgatty Island in the south to Cheranallur in the north. It will be a four-lane road on bridges, culverts, embankments and stilts. Coastal Regulation Zone stipulations apply for 11.2 km of the stretch. A major portion of the road will be over embankments created on reclaimed backwaters.

The road project involves building four major bridges, four minor bridges and 20 culverts to ensure free flow and ebb of the tides in and out of the sprawling backwaters of Ernakulam district. The Kerala State Coastal Zone Management Authority (KSCZMA) had recommended having the road on stilts along a stretch of 710 metres that falls in the buffer zone of the filtration pond of the backwater system, classified as `Coastal Regulation Zone-1 (i)'. This too is to ensure free flow and ebb of the tide.

The KSCZMA had also stipulated mangrove afforestation over an area of 3.67 hectares along the stretch. The road on stilts will have a minimum vertical clearance of 2.5 metres from the water level.

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