Green activist moves High Court against district collector for Varkala cliff demolition

The collector had invoked Sections 26, 30 and 34 of the Disaster Management Act- 2005 to demolish the iconic Varkala Cliff.
The portion of the cliff that collapsed near Edava beach in Varkala
The portion of the cliff that collapsed near Edava beach in VarkalaPhoto | Express

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: A green activist has approached the Kerala High Court against the Thiruvananthapuram district collector for destroying the iconic Varkala Cliff - a geo-heritage site and a declared national geological monument - in the state capital. Environment Protection and Research Council (EPRC), an NGO based in Thiruvananthapuram, has moved the HC against the district collector for invoking the Disaster Management Act to demolish a portion of the cliff close to the Bali Mandapam near the famed Papanasam Beach at Varkala.

The portion of the cliff that collapsed near Edava beach in Varkala
Thiruvananthapuram district collector orders demolition of Varkala Cliff

The collector had invoked Sections 26, 30 and 34 of the Disaster Management Act- 2005 to demolish the iconic Varkala Cliff, a geological heritage site acknowledged by the Geographical Survey of India (GSI). The district collector issued the order on June 5, 2024, and a team from the district disaster management authority excavated the part of the cliff sandwiched between the toilet block constructed by the tourism department and the Bali Mandapam. Around 106 cubic metres of the cliff measuring 6 m in length, 45 m in width, and 3 m in depth have been excavated to lower the cliff height to protect the Bali Mandapam.

The portion of the cliff that collapsed near Edava beach in Varkala
Collapsing cliff forces indefinite closure of Varkala Bali Mandapam

“It is a serious offence and instead of protecting a rare geological heritage monument, the district collector has misused the Disaster Management Act to destroy it which is unacceptable. I have filed a petition in the HC to ensure that such gross violations destroying the cliff should not be repeated. Also the cliff should be protected,” said Sanjeev S J of EPRC.

He said that notices would be served to all parties within 10 days. He said that the cliff was demolished to protect two illegal constructions carried out by government agencies close to the beach which falls under CRZ I. Following the demolition of the cliff, the Geological Survey of India has stepped in to conserve the cliff. Interestingly, the district collector maintained that he was unaware of the geological and heritage importance of the Varkala Cliff, hence took such an extreme step to protect the Bali Mandapam. Even after the demolition of the cliff, the Bali Mandapam remains shut for the public.

“Disaster Management Act shouldn’t be misused and the district collector who chairs various government bodies including District Tourism Promotion Council (DTPC), District Disaster Management Authority and Coastal District Committee shouldn’t have misused his power for destroying a rare geological formation,” he said.

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