Residents rally against displacement for Kovalam-Bekal Waterway project

Around 900 families will be displaced to facilitate the Kovalam-Bekal National Waterways along 16.4 km Parvathy Puthanar stretching from Kovalam to Akkulam.
Route map of the West Coast Canal connecting Bekal to Kovalam  Source.   
Route map of the West Coast Canal connecting Bekal to Kovalam  Source.  KWIL Website.

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Families residing along the banks of the Parvathy Puthanar have come out in stiff protest against the proposed development of the canal as part of the Kovalam - Bekal National Waterways. The families facing displacement from Munnattumukku to Paruthikuzhy of Parvathy Puthanar have formed an action council, expressing their dissatisfaction with the rehabilitation package and demanding better compensation. Around 900 families will be displaced to facilitate the project along the 16.4 km Parvathy Puthanar stretching from Kovalam to Akkulam.

“We need a better compensation and rehabilitation package as most of the families have been residing here for many decades. The government has announced a `11-lakh compensation for each family. However, it is inadequate as it would be impossible to buy even one cent of land anywhere in this locality,” said Badusha R, convener of Parvathy Puthanar Samara Samiti.

“There are several trade establishments along the stretch. There are approximately 200 shops and the government should give all of them special packages. We are waiting for the elections to be over. If they don’t approve of our demands, we are planning to approach the High Court,” said Badusha.

The Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board (KIIFB) has sanctioned `247.2 crores to rehabilitate around 1,275 families residing along the Kovalam - Varkala waterways. The plan is to develop and widen the canal complying with the specifications of the Inland Waterways Authority of India and integrate it with the 633-km West Coast Canal, which is the main arterial waterway in the state that traverses through 11 districts.

The canal will be widened to 25 metres with five metre width service on both sides. “I have all the documents and We own this property. We want the government to give us three times more than the market value of the land. There are several families occupying the ‘purambokk’ land and the government has to give them better compensation too. The alignment of land acquisition is not consistent as they have acquired 50-60 metres in some places. They should restrict the alignment at 30 metres,” said Anfar Sharafudhin.

The project is implemented by the Coastal Shipping and Inland Navigation Department and Kerala Waterways Infrastructure Limited (KWIL) - a special purpose vehicle (SPV) of Cochin International Airport Ltd (CIAL) and the state government.

“All of the structures along the stretch are encroachments. They have been living there for a long time, and that is why the government is giving them a compensation. If we were to go only by the rules, the authorities could just issue notices and evict them. Even if they move Court, nothing more can be done,” said an official of Coastal Shipping and Inland Navigation Department.

An official of KWIL said that the families having the ownership documents will be given proper compensation as per the Land Acquisition Act. “Several families have produced the original documents, and we have approved more than 170 applicants who are eligible for compensation. Several other families have come forward claiming to have title deeds and we are vetting all those documents at present,” said the official.

The official said that more than 300 families at Varkala have already been given compensation. “We have stalled the procedures because of the elections,” the official added.

Demands of the action council

  • The alignment of the project should be restricted at 30 metres. Better compensation for families facing displacement

  • Three times more of the market value of the land Maximum square feet value for buildings to be demolished

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The New Indian Express