Staff Reporter

To finalise recommendations after meetings, visits

KOCHI: A 10-member team from the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest has started gathering information on the alignment of the road to be laid for linking the proposed Vallarpadom container transhipment terminal and the National Highway.

The team arrived here on Saturday and held discussions with officials of the Cochin Port Trust, the National Highways Authority of India, the Centre of Earth Science Studies and the Ministries of Shipping and Road Transport and Highways.

The team, led by T.V. Antony, Chairman, and R. Chandramohan, Joint Secretary, Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, has been sent to visit the site and study the alignment of the road. The team members had a look at the project area in the evening. They will continue the meetings on Sunday.

The team will finalise its recommendations after collecting more information. As it began the visit, groups of people have raised opposition to the alignment now being considered for the road. Earlier, residents of the Mulavukadu island, under the auspices of the Mulavukadu Panchayat Development Action Council, had called for laying the road by reclaiming land on the western side of their place to aid its development.

Seven km of the 15-km road will go along the bank of the island, under the proposed alignment. The people are against the proposal to lay the road on pillars to avoid reclamation.

Cusat study

However, groups have come up against reclamation, citing an environment impact study done by the School of Environmental Studies, Cochin University of Science and Technology (Cusat).

The study says the reclamation will affect the natural flow dynamics of the estuarine system. The flow of water in the surrounding tidal canal will also be affected, leading to the loss of conserved or protected land, which is just 1 ft. to 2 ft. from the tidal wave front, it adds.

N.K. Suresh, joint convenor of the Container Terminal Road Action Council, said the work on the road should be carried out in coordination with that on three major roads sanctioned along the islands.

The roads sanctioned are the coastal highway, connecting Vypeen to National Highway 17 at Kodungalloor; a Goshree Islands Development Authority road from Moolampilly-Pizhala to Paravoor, via Kadamakudy and Chathanadu; and a ring road proposed by the Greater Cochin Development Authority from High Court junction to Varappuzha, via Chathiath, Vaduthala, Chittoor, Kothad and Chennur.

The alignment being considered now ends at Kalamassery junction, which is congested. The carrying capacity of the region is over the specified limit. Connecting container traffic to that point will make things worse, said V.S. Moosakutty, general secretary of Green Earth, an environmental organisation. The proposed alignment will destroy the Pokkali farms and many `sarpakavu' (sacred groves). Mangroves are also under threat, Mr. Moosakutty added.