Staff Reporter

KOCHI: At a time when open spaces in the city are shrinking at an alarming rate, a reported move by the Kochi Corporation to convert a park in the heart of a residential area into a sewage pumping station has drawn flak.

The residents coming under the Panampilly Nagar Welfare Association (PNWA) were at their wit’s end when last month a team led by deputy tahsildar (land acquisition) came armed with a notification issued under the Kerala Survey and Boundaries Act to survey a park they had painstakingly built and maintained.

“We were initially told that a drinking water tank was to be set up in its place,” said K. Aravindakshan, social activist and a resident of the area. PNWA landscaped the park and built a walkway at a cost in excess of Rs. 1 lakh out of funds donated by residents and institutions in the adjoining area three years ago.

That the proposal was to build a sewage pumping station and not a water tank came to light after T.K. Padmanabhan, one of the three councillors from the region, had access to the file regarding the project.

Funds had been allotted under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) to set up sewage treatment plants. The council meeting of May 9, 2008, had passed a proposal selecting several areas to set up sewage plants to utilise these funds. “It was impossible to know at that time that one of the sites selected was the park in question as only the survey numbers were mentioned then,” Mr. Padmanabhan said.

Since then he had brought the matter to the notice of the Mayor, who, he said, had agreed to shift the location of the proposed sewage pumping station to an alternative space within the same division. Mr. Padmanabhan said that he would move a submission raising this demand at the next council meeting. Residents in the area said that the facility could come up over an open canal adjoining the area.

Households utilising the park were paying Rs. 1,200 a month for its maintenance, said K.M. Varghese, another resident in the area. Besides, he said, the Greater Cochin Development Authority (GCDA) had a provision that there should be an open space for a specific number of households.

Mr. Aravindakshan alleged that a similar ploy by the GCDA to use the park, developed on less than 10 cents of land, for building shop rooms was dropped following the protests of the residents.