Raze illicit structures, protect Varkala cliff

But that did not stop it from further caving in, which forced the authorities to take the drastic decision to demolish a section.
The special squad under the Varkala municipality and tourism stakeholders removing structures from the edge of the cliff beyond the footpath
The special squad under the Varkala municipality and tourism stakeholders removing structures from the edge of the cliff beyond the footpath Photo | B P Deepu, EPS

The view of Arabian Sea from the Varkala cliff is quite breathtaking. The cliff, a unique geological feature on the otherwise flat Kerala coast, is one of the most visited tourist destinations in the state. In 2014, the Geological Survey of India (GSI) named the 6.4-km promontory a national geological monument. Formed around 2.58 million years ago, the natural formation was in the process of being turned into the first ever geological park in the country.

But something unprecedented happened to it recently. A portion of the cliff was demolished by the district authorities after heavy rains had inflicted substantial damage to it, making it hazardous. Several holes had appeared on the cliff, triggering panic among locals. The district collector, invoking sections 26, 30 and 34 of the Disaster Management Act of 2005, knocked down some portions of the cliff as it was at the risk of collapsing. The district administration had earlier directed the police to ban four-wheelers on the cliff. But that did not stop it from further caving in, which forced the authorities to take the drastic decision to demolish a section.

The move has triggered widespread outrage among environmental activists. The GSI has stepped in, too, sending a team for inspection. Conservationists allege that the authorities are not looking for the real reasons behind the cliff’s disintegration. They point to the slew of illegal constructions that have come up on the cliff as tourism has surged. They also allege that some structures—the bali mandapam and toilet blocks—were constructed by government agencies themselves after demolishing a part of the cliff.

Even with a portion demolished, the cliff is still a geographic treasure and it must be preserved at all costs. What was the administration doing while all these illegal structures came up is indeed a question that must be answered. It is important to reduce the weight that has been mounted on the promontory over time. While the authorities must clear all illegal constructions at the earliest, the officials who preferred to look the other way when these were coming up must be taken to task, too. Equally important is a ban on further constructions on the cliff. Without the cliff, Varkala beach will lose its biggest attraction—and that should not be allowed to happen.

Related Stories

No stories found.

X
The New Indian Express
www.newindianexpress.com