KERALA

Reclamation will cause ecological damage to Vembanad, says panel

The Cochin Port Trust (CPT) has come under fire for its alleged flagrant reclamation of Vembanad backwaters and violation of the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) notification.

A committee constituted by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, has held the CPT responsible for CRZ violations in Vembanad, which was classified as a Critically Vulnerable Coastal Area in the CRZ 2011 notification.

The four-member panel, which looked into a complaint filed by N. Ramachandran of Aluva, concluded that the CPT had been “reclaiming large stretches of backwaters and intertidal zones with dredged sediments from shipping channels during the last many years.”

The committee, with S.K. Susarla, K. Kokkal, K.O. Badrees, and K.V. Thomas as members, also pulled up the CPT for illegally reclaiming land at Bolgatty Island. The reclaimed land was later allotted on lease to LuLu Group for setting up a convention centre and hotel, which, according to the committee, was illegal.

The panel had cited the Vallarpadam Container Terminal area and the southern part of Willingdon Island as two specific examples of reclamations by the CPT. The observations through imagery, according to the panel, indicated that the reclamation of backwaters and the intertidal zone at Vallarpadam took place after 2011, while the reclamation in Willingdon Island was carried out after 2005.”

The committee “focussed on the large-scale damages that can occur due to indiscriminate reclamations violating CRZ rules.”

As regards reclamation of Vembanad backwaters, the panel reported to the MoEF that the “CPT did not obtain CRZ clearance for reclamation, which is in violation of CRZ provisions. The panel “noticed many more reclamations in the Kochi backwaters by the CPT and other agencies without permission from the Kerala Coastal Zone Management Authority or MoEF.” It was of the view that “these activities in violation of CRZ provisions will definitely affect the ecological health of a very sensitive ecosystem like Vembanad.”

CPT reply

Responding to the report, CPT Chief Engineer G. Vaidyanathan told the Ministry that the findings of the panel that “there was violation of CRZ provisions was clearly incorrect.” The official also wrote to the Ministry that the CPT was not informed about the constitution of the committee and the site visit. However, in its report, the panel noted that Dr. Susarla had interacted with Secretary and Chief Engineer of the CPT on April 28, 2016.

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