KERALA

Concern over environmental impact of Vizhinjam project

Fisheries expert and marine scientist Sanjeeva Ghosh has demanded core changes to the project report for the proposed seaport at Vizhinjam, warning that the construction activities for the port would impact on the marine ecosystem and the livelihood of the fishing community and pose a serious setback to beach tourism.

Pointing out that the project would lead to significant shoreline changes in the area, Mr. Ghosh, former Additional Director of Fisheries, Kerala, demanded a scientific and technical review of the proposal.

In a letter to the Member Secretary, Expert Appraisal Committee for CRZ (coastal regulation zone) projects, he said the construction of the seaport would alter the natural geography of the coast and affect the marine ecosystem along the coast of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, affecting over 100,000 fishermen.

“The impact will be felt on a highly marginalised and low income community. The destruction of marine resources is unavoidable and irreversible.” He said it would also affect the thriving beach resorts, hotels and tourist facilities in the Kovalam, Vizhinjam and Poovar areas.

Biodiversity

Citing geographical studies, the letter pointed out that construction activities involving underwater rock blasting, dredging, sand mining and reclamation could affect the narrow continental shelf, resulting in changes in the direction of waves and ocean tides. This in turn would affect the marine wealth and the coastal areas in Thiruvananthapuram and neighbouring districts.

Dr. Ghosh said environmental experts had warned about the impact of the port on the biodiversity of the Wedge Bank, 45 to 60 km off the Vizhinjam coast. “The largest coral reef in the Indian ocean, the Wedge Bank is the breeding ground for more than 200 varieties of fish. It is also home to more than 60 species of ornamental fishes and oceanic animals. The construction works for the port will destroy the habitat.”

The letter observed that the construction of the proposed port would lead to accelerated erosion of the beaches on the northern side including the Kovalam international tourist destination. The area southward up to Poovar is likely to be become unusable due to enhanced accretion of sand. Considering that the affected areas are mainly fishing villages and tourist destinations, the local economy could take a big hit, he warned. “The erosion and accretion in and around fishing harbours, river bunds and sea walls in Kerala has been established by scientists studying the phenomenon..

He also called for an assessment of the economic value of the tourism industry in the region.

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