Environment
The Kerala High Court in 2016 gave an interim order to survey the Chilavanoor lake, but activists allege that no report on the survey has been submitted till date.
Midhun J

In the wake of various encroachments of Chilavanoor backwaters surfacing again, the green activists in Kochi are all set to move to the Kerala High Court to question why authorities have not yet submitted a survey report of the Chilavanoor lake.

In December 2016, the Kerala High Court gave an interim order to conduct a survey of the Chilavanoor backwaters on the petition filed by environmentalist Cheshire Tarzen. But now, various environmental activists in Kochi have come up with allegations that the authorities have not even submitted a single report over the past two years.

Kerala High Court judges Thottathil B Radhakrishnan and Devan Ramachandran in the order of 2016 had accepted the writ petition filed by Cheshire to conduct a survey of the Chilavanoor lake. As per the order, the Kochi Corporation was supposed to submit the first report to the court within February 2017 and as the survey progresses, reports were supposed to be submitted ‘from time to time’.

“But nothing of this has happened over these past two years. Three teams were constituted for this by the court and the Ernakulam District Collector was supposed to submit the report to the court from time to time. The survey was not completed and neither have any reports been submitted to the court,” Cheshire Tarzen told TNM.

Chilavanoor backwater is part of the Vembanad-Kol Wetland that is included as one among the Ramsar sites as per the Ramsar Convention. The five apartment buildings which the Supreme Court recently directed to be demolished for violating Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) are located around the Chilavanoor backwaters.  

Cheshire filed a writ petition at the High Court in 2016, seeking an order to survey Chilavanoor lake, based on a sub-committee report by the Kerala State Council for Science, Technology and Environment (KSCSTE) on violations in Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) of Chilavanoor backwaters.

“As per the report, there have been widespread encroachments of the water body. The court gave due significance for my petition since it was based on that report,” says Cheshire.

Meanwhile, according to the sub-committee report, “Many of these constructions could be in violation of the provisions of Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ). As the Coastal Zone Management Plans (CZMP) of the state is prepared in small scale maps, narrow canals and small water bodies are not shown in it. Hence detailed mapping of the area is required.”

According to activists, the survey was started from the Maradu municipality stretch of the Chilavanoor backwater. “But the committee could not complete that, some officials had even personally told me that they had severe pressure from people who were behind the encroachments,” claims Cheshire.

Environmental activist Nipun Cherian alleged that the district administration was also trying to protect those who were behind the encroachment of the water body. “Following the court order, the District Collector of Ernakulam had said in May 2017, that a report will be submitted within 45 days of conducting survey, but it has not been done,” Nipun tells TNM.

The activists are now planning to file a contempt of court against officials, including the District Collector, for not complying with the court order by submitting the survey report.