The unilateral decision taken by the Department Fisheries to set up a fingerling breeding centre here, brushing aside all pleas and cautions about the impact on the environment and ecological degradation, has irked environmentalists, ecologists and residents.
They vociferously protested the proposal on Sunday claiming that it would destroy the last marshland, prime drinking water source to the entire town and major catchment of Kodaikanal lake, the main water source to major dams in Palani.
In a meeting with environmentalists and non-governmental organisations at Kodaikanal Municipal Office on Saturday evening, Director of the Department of Fisheries V.P. Dhandapani announced that the government had already taken a decision to establish the fingerling breeding farm on the marshland at Gymkhana Club after considering the outcome and results of research and inspections on environment impact.
Fish tanks would be constructed on marshland without using concrete mixture, he said. When environmentalists protested this announcement, Mr. Thandapani reportedly left the meeting hall without reacting to their appeals.
Already seven marshlands, main water sources for the lake, had been completely destroyed in the name of development. Gymkhana Club marshland was the last one. Its destruction would create an acute water crisis, said ecologists.
Later, taking to press persons, Mr. Dhandapani said Fisheries Department would go ahead with the plan in establishing the breeding centre without destructing the marshland. Besides, around 30,000 fingerlings would be reared in Kodaikanal Lake also to purify water. Ruling out any mercury contamination in water, he said mercury waste contaminated only soil.
The fingerling breeding centre would be established at an estimated cost of Rs. 9.5 crore, he added.
In September 2015, a meeting, presided over by Fisheries Department Chief Engineer Thanga Prathaban, had decided to constitute an expert committee to find an amicable solution. The officials assured to maintain status quo till environmentalists arrived at a solution.
Even as officials had clarified that pillars would be erected above the marshland to construct tanks to grow only common carp variety of fish, environmentalists replied that the swamp would die instantly without sunlight as tanks would block direct sunlight. They also suggested that the department could revive the Rs. 15-crore fish farm project implemented at Manjalar dam in the foothills of Kodaikanal.
After the first meeting, the department had stopped preliminary work near Gymkhana Club and removed all building materials dumped there to rehabilitate the damaged portion of the marshland.