KOCHI: It has been five years since the Greater Cochin Development Authority’s (GCDA) D4.5-crore cage fish farming project came to a standstill. Ever since the state government’s audit found several irregularities in the project, the agency left the project in the lurch despite stiff opposition from residents. “The project had come to halt due to an ongoing vigilance probe which found financial irregularities. Though we haven’t dropped the project, the next move will be taken only after completing the ongoing probe,” said V Saleem, GCDA chairman.
As per the audit report, the project will severely impact the ecologically sensitive area procured for the Rameshwaram development project.“The project, being implemented outside the GCDA budget didn’t have any feasibility study and environment clearance. The agency has illegally deposited the sludge in the mangrove forest nearby. Besides, it hasn’t received approval from the Wetland Regulatory Authority,” alleges the report.
Vigilance has also found irregularities in the purchase of technical equipment, fish food and the fishlings.
GCDA officials have clarified that the project has violated the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) norms. “The project also violated the CRZ-III norms while constructing facilities for the farm. The previous council hadn’t obtained the necessary permission from the Kerala Coastal Zone Management Authority (KCZMA). When we approached the agency recently, they clarified that it’s not possible to permit the project under current circumstances,” he said.
Earlier, the project was shut down after protests by environmentalists who alleged that large swathes of mangroves were destroyed for the project. “Even though officials are in no mood to revive the project, we have to bear the brunt of their lackadaisical approach. As they haven’t built a systematic culvert to drain out the water, the farm gets inundated during the rainy season. If they are not planning to move forward with the project, the official sshould at least consider our plight,” said Micheal V, a nearby resident.
The four-acre property comprises a 1.5-acre pond, a power generator room, 24 fish cages, 33 aerators and the land surrounding the pond. Though GCDA has decided to lease out the area to private players through a Public-Private Partnership model, nothing has materialised. “The idea is to let the private player look after the farm by topping the eco-tourism possibilities of the area. As the project has potential in the post-Covid period, we will take a decision accordingly,” he added.
The I4.5 crore cage fish farming project includes a a four-acre property with a 1.5-acre pond, a power generator room, 24 fish cages, 33 aerators and the land surrounding the pond