The special squads constituted in various panchayats in Kozhikode district to check illegal filling of wetlands and paddy fields have largely remained inactive. Conversion of such illegally filled areas into garden land is also rampant thanks to poor surveillance.
Environmental organisations attribute the trend to official apathy coupled with the involvement of influential politicians. Complaints against suspected individuals and firms are being ignored, they said.
“Many village and panchayat officials are not familiar with the Kerala Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetland (Amendment) Act. As a result, complaints are not taken up for spot action,” said a functionary of the Kerala Paristhithi Samrakshana Samiti. He added that an awareness programme had to be organised for land revenue officials to familiarise them with the rules.
Complaints are also on the rise against wetland filling in the name of road development. Environmental activists pointed out that the ongoing construction of the Perambra Bypass was a classic instance where local residents were up in arms against large-scale filling of wetlands.
An action committee member said there had been similar attempts near the Kottuli wetland too. “It was the local police who finally acted against the illegal act and booked a private landholder who attempted to fill nearly eight acres along the Kozhikode Bypass. Revenue officials arrived at the spot only after the earth removers and goods carriers were impounded,” he claimed.
Meanwhile, Revenue department sources said there was no negligence on the part of the squads in exposing illegal land filling. According to them, the frequency of inspections was reduced in some villages owing to staff shortage and workload.