Even as there is no dearth of warnings from the official side of strong action against encroachers, encroachments of massive scale continue unabated along the Ashtamudi Lake in Kollam district.
The encroachers often feel that it is their right to encroach upon the lake, listed as a Ramsar site.
Of late, it is the estuarine islands of the lake that are expanding in size due to encroachments. Large portions of the lake adjoining the islands are encircled with a foundation and then reclaimed. During the holidays on December 24 and 25, several boat loads of sand and debris were dumped into the encircled encroachments.
Ashtamudi Lake enthusiast V.K. Madhusoodanan said that as a result of the encroachments, the lake, which had an area of more than 61 sq.km., has shrunk to less than 34 sq.km. ‘‘If this is the manner in which a Ramsar site is protected, then in my opinion the time has dawned to strip the Ashtamudi Lake of its Ramsar tag,’’ he said.
This is happening to a wetland which perhaps has the largest number of environment activists in the State fighting to protect it, he said. Way back in 2006, an extensive survey of the lake by the Revenue Department had found that 103 acres of the lake had been encroached upon. But, even after 10 years, only less than 10 acres of the identified encroachments had been cleared. The clearing operation was subsequently dropped.
Mr. Madhusoodanan said that in the last couple of years, more than one sq.km. of the lake had been newly-encroached and most of that along the estuarine islands. After a close study of the lake last week, he said that encroachments into the lake had taken place or taking place along the estuarine islands of Cheekenthuruth, Kerolithuruth, Kavanad Puthenthruth, Kanakkanthurth, Pushpamangalamthuruth, Fatimathuruth, Thomasthuruth and Josephthuruth.
He said this was again in spite of the fact that the Coastal Regulatory Zone notification 2011 specifically declared estuarine islands as no development zones. The estuarine islands were extremely fragile ecosystems and the core marine fish spawning areas because they fell along the inter-tidal zone. Yet there was total apathy on the side of the authorities concerned, Mr. Madhusoodanan said.