THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Every day, the waters of the Vellayani lake reach hundreds of homes in the area and probably miles away too; often sold at exorbitant rates. Neither the grama panchayat nor the District Panchayat has any idea about who pumps out the water and where it is taken to. The same way its banks have been encroached upon by people over the years.
But despite the move by the panchayat and local activists to bring it to the notice of the State Government, the authorities seem determined to remain blind.
The initial enthusiasm that the UDF Government showed in setting up a Society for the Conservation of Vellayani Lake has seemingly subsided. After a meeting in July last year which had dispersed after deciding to register the society and draft a bylaw for it, no meeting has been called so far during the last nine months to take the project forward.
The Government is known to have set aside ` 7 crore for transportation of water to the Harbour of the Vizhinjam container terminal project. The Tourism Department has also allotted a considerable amount for developing tourism in the area.
The district panchayat has set aside ` 10 crore for the restoration of the lake which includes finding out the encroached areas on the lakeside and building a geo-bund. But the basic step for any major restoration, fixing the boundary of the lake, is yet to be undertaken.
‘’At the meeting held to set up the society, the Deputy Collector was asked to coordinate with the Land Use Board to conduct an aerial survey of the lake. The Revenue officials are to provide the documents to find out the encroachments in the area and the actual boundary; for, some farmers had land there earlier which later submerged in the lake. But nothing has materialised. We doubt whether there has been an intervention at some quarters to not allow the coming up of the society,’’ said Rufus Daniel, District Panchayat vice-president.
The society had the MLA, MP, grama panchayat heads of Venganoor and Kalliyoor panchayats, District Panchayat vice-president and a couple of local representatives as its members. The inclusion of a dancer from the area, who had allegedly usurped land there, in the society for the conservation of the lake had created a ruckus in the second meeting. Though it was later decided to oust the dancer from the society, a meeting was not called to implement the decision.
According to sources, the draft of the bylaw for the society has been forwarded to the Government. But that has also been caught in red tape. ‘’The Government says that it is envisaging a project to protect all freshwater lakes in the State, in which Vellayani also will be included; but, that is only an excuse to not set up the Society,’’ says a member of the Kalliyoor grama panchayat.