GSI intervenes, terms demolition of Varkala Cliff portion ‘shocking’

According to officials, the demolition work was undertaken without consulting the central agency.
GSI officials inspect the site on Varkala Cliff on Monday where demolition work is progressing
GSI officials inspect the site on Varkala Cliff on Monday where demolition work is progressing Photo | B P Deepu

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Geological Survey of India (GSI) has stepped in to save the Varkala Cliff — a recognised geo-heritage site and national geological monument — which is facing massive destruction and erosion.

GSI authorities have come out strongly against the district administration demolishing a portion of the cliff near the Bali Mandapam at Papanasam Beach. According to officials, the demolition work was undertaken without consulting the central agency.

On Friday, a huge portion of the cliff near the Bali Mandapam was demolished following a directive from the district collector to mitigate landslide hazard at the site by removing trees and portion of the cliff. The collector invoked sections 26, 30 and 34 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, to demolish the portions. The work continued on Monday as well, reportedly causing significant damage to the stability of the already eroding cliff.

On Monday, a team from the GSI visited the site. The GSI intervention came following reports by TNIE, and public outcry, on the destruction of the cliff near the Bali Mandapam. GSI Deputy Director General (Kerala Unit) V Ambili told TNIE that the Varkala Cliff is a geo-heritage site which will be recognised by Unesco as a geo-park in future.

“In a recent meeting convened by the tourism department, we had suggested several remedial measures for the protection of the cliff. The meeting was attended by various agencies and experts. But the demolition of the cliff was shocking. It was done without any consultation with us. As far as we are concerned, the cliff is a prestigious site with immense geological and geomorphological relevance,” said Ambili.

GSI officials to meet principal secy of environment dept today

The GSI will meet the principal secretary of the environment department on Tuesday.

“We have prepared a note which will be submitted to the principal secretary. We have been protecting such declared sites across the country with the consent and concurrence of state authorities and district collectors. As per CRZ norms, no construction is allowed within 200m from the high tide line,” said Ambili.

Sanjeev S J, chairman of Environmental Protection and Research Council (EPRC), alleged that the district collector, who is the chairman of the district disaster management authority (DDMA) and the coastal district committee, is responsible for a series of illegal actions, from demolishing a protected hill to committing CRZ violations by depositing red laterite soil on the white sandy shore of Varkala Papanasam Beach.

“The demolition order was issued without considering the cliff’s geo-heritage status. The collector has misused the Disaster Management Act. Instead of protecting the cliff, he is exercising his power to protect two illegal structures constructed by government agencies,” said Sanjeev.

According to officials of Vision Varkala Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd (VIVID) — the agency responsible for the conservation of the cliff — steps should be taken by local bodies to ban the entry of vehicles to the cliff.

“A police aid post should be set up to ensure illegal activities are stopped. The cliff is degrading because of the growing human activities and that needs to be regulated. We have engaged the Centre for Water Resources Development and Management to study the generation of wastewater by commercial establishments and resorts on the cliff. There are around 200 resorts on the cliff and the septage waste generated daily is directly released to the cliff,” said Ramakrishnan Potty, managing director of VIVID.

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