Biodiversity board opposes High-Tech City proposal

K.S. Sudhi

Says the project will destroy mangrove ecosystem of Valanthakad

KOCHI: The Kerala State Biodiversity Board (KSBB) has urged the Chief Minister to reject the High-Tech City project proposed at Valanthakad, Maradu, and go in for a biodiversity-based development programme there.

The Board “strongly recommend the government not to sacrifice the mangrove ecosystem of Valanthakad after relaxing so many of the national and State polices and Acts for promoting the interests of a real estate company,” the Board wrote to the Chief Minister.

A private builder has proposed to set up a High-Tech city there with a built-up area of 4 crore square feet at an expense of Rs.5,000 crore. The builder has also “reportedly acquired 320 acres there. It is reported that the land was brought in the name of 18 companies, apparently to avoid violation of the Land Reforms Act, 1963,” the note said.

The project is to set up a knowledge park, housing and commercial complex, multiplex, star hotels, IT research centre, oceanarium and a ropeway.

The Board also advised him to take steps to prevent the “destruction of the mangrove ecosystem that covers Valanthakad and adjoining areas and evolve a biodiversity-based development programme that would ensure sustainable livelihood and welfare of common people.”

The recommendations were also given to five State Ministers and senior officials who attended the Single Window Clearance Committee that considered four mega projects namely the Knowledge Park, Thanthonnithuruthu, Kochi, High-Tech City, Valanthakad, Kochi, Joint Venture programme in Kozhikode by Grasim Industries and the Integrated Township, Kozhikode, sources said.

Violation of laws

The proposed project would violate a series of national and State laws, including the Coastal Regulation Zone notification, Kerala Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetland Act 2008, National Environment Policy, 2006, Kerala Forest Policy 2008 and the National Wetlands Conservation Programme. It would also go against the Kerala State Biodiversity Strategy and Action plan, Kerala State Land Reforms Act, the Central Land Acquisition Act and the Ramsar convention, the note said.

The Board has also noted that the Detailed Project Report was not made available to it.

The attempts to obtain it from the Industries Department had also not succeeded, it pointed out.

“The mangrove stands that spread over Valanthakad constitute a single highly complex mangrove ecosystem, around 644 hectare, the like of which is not present in the whole of Kerala. The biodiversity of the area is also quite rich and it is a traditional waterfowl area attracting a large number of migratory species.”

If the project is implemented, “the people of the area would lose the indirect benefits worth Rs. 77.28 crore annually. It is just impossible to recreate the mangrove system anywhere else; biological science has not yet grown for such a feat. The argument that these mangroves could be created elsewhere as compensation for the mangroves of Valanthakad does not hold any ground,” the Board told the Chief Minister.

The area is ideal for developing eco-tourism and has good potential for converting it into a waterfowl park without affecting the ecosystem, the report said.

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