Staff Reporter

KOCHI: Kochi might be on the fast track to development but is it happening at the cost of the environment?

Indiscriminate human interference has altered the ecology of the commercial capital of the State.

From massive depletion of mangroves to unchecked sand-mining in the Periyar river, natural resources are facing a grave threat.

"Large-scale sand and sediment-mining, deforestation and various other factors resulted in the erosion, sliding and eventual destruction of the mangrove population. Population growth and migration to coastal areas have led to the depletion and destruction of the fragile environment," says George J.P., principal scientist, Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI).

Barrier against sea

He says mangrove forests serve as a natural barrier against the intrusion of the sea by dissipating the wave action and preventing soil erosion.

Urging the authorities to protect the rich mangrove population, Mr. George says coastal area development should be associated with reclamation of lost mangrove area.

He lays stress on the need to make provisions in the annual budget of the maritime States for mangrove conservation.

River pollution

Referring to the changing face of the Periyar, C.M. Joy, faculty member, Sacred Heart College, Thevara, says the ecology of the river has been affected following indiscriminate pollution and overexploitation of the riverbed. Dr. Joy warns that the drinking water supply to the Greater Kochi Region will be severely affected owing to the pollution of the river.

M.S. Mythili, senior environmental engineer, Kerala State Pollution Control Board, emphasises the need for effective management of municipal and industrial waste.

Discharge of untreated effluents into public drains should be prevented, she says. Effluents should be treated at source wherever possible. New establishments, both residential and industrial, should be permitted only with an efficient waste management system, she says.

U.K. Gopalan, former Deputy Director, National Institute of Oceanography, says immediate steps should be taken to prevent the shrinkage and degradation of the backwaters. Reclamation of the estuaries has resulted in the reduction of the area and depth of the backwaters.

Mr. Gopalan highlights the need to introduce stringent legal measures to protect the backwaters.

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