KOCHI: Now, a major construction project of the Central Warehousing Corporation (CWC) in an ecologically sensitive zone in central Kerala has come under the lens just as the filling of wetlands is directly blamed for the back-to-back flood which swamped the state.
The CWC project at Purakkad village in Alappuzha is being undertaken in brazen violation of an expert committee report that warns of severe flooding if construction is allowed at the proposed site.
As major irregularities with regard to allocation of wetland for the construction have come to the fore, Purakkad grama panchayat had on June 11, 2019, issued stop memo to the CWC directing it to suspend the work and submit all necessary permissions which they have availed for construction of the 6,048 sq m godown at the proposed site. Even an RTI reply given by the state government on July 10, 2019, shows CWC was not given the nod to fill the wetland.
While the grama panchayat remains clueless on how the government identified the particular site - it was on March 5, 2014 the state government issued an order (TP(2)21323/13) granting administrative sanction to the CWC to construct the godown on two acres of wetland having survey number 281/1 - designated as ‘wetland’ in the land data bank, the findings of the expert committee led by Kerala Agricultural University faculty member Leena Kumar S came to light following an RTI query filed by Alappuzha-based lawyer Subash M Theekaddan.
“We issued a stop memo after getting to know the expert committee’s findings. It is a mystery how the CWC got government approval for filling the wetland. Besides issuing a stop memo, they have been asked to submit the documents. The panchayat has also apprised the District Collector of the illegal filling of the wetland,” said Purakkad panchayat secretary Beena S. “We came to know that the CWC has again started deploying heavy-duty equipment at the site for construction works. The matter will indeed be taken up with the government,” said Rahmath Hamid, panchayat president.
According to the findings of the expert committee, “the proposed site and the entire area surrounding the same, designated as ‘wetland’ in the data bank is indeed one, well connected to the leading channel of Thottappally spillway. It acts as a buffer in maintaining the area’s water balance by collecting and storing the excess water reaching the site during the monsoon”.
“To construct the godown, the wetland has to be filled and it will have a major environmental fallout. Since the wetlands are crucial for preventing soil erosion and ensuring flood regulation, conversion of the same for any other purpose may lead to irreversible impact on the region’s ecology. The loss of drainage facilities and water logging will lead to increase run off and frequent floods and drought,” the panel said. On being asked about the construction, a senior CWC officer in Kochi said they have stopped the work after the panchayat issued the memo. He said they got permission to construct the godown from the Revenue Department and will approach the state government for further clarity in this regard.