As the city of Kochi has grown over the last several years, illegal encroachments have also been on the rise. One such site is the Chilavanoor backwater stretch, which passes through the city and has gotten significant media attention for alleged encroachments into the water body. But a new video posted on social media by environmentalists alleges that recent encroachments on the Chilavanoor backwater is due to construction on the Kochi Metro.
Environmentalists allege that concrete debris was piled on the banks of the water body and was being covered by mud taken from Chilavanoor backwater. The spot where the debris was piled is close to the construction site of Kochi Metroâ€™s Elamkulam station.
Chilavanoor backwater is part of the Vembanad-Kol Wetland, which is Ramsar site no. 1214. Ramsar sites are wetlands identified as internationally important under the Ramsar Convention. The Vembanad-Kol Wetland passes through three districts in Kerala - Alappuzha, Kottayam and Ernakulam â€“ after which it opens into the Arabian Sea. The Chilavanoor backwater is part of this large water system and passes through prime location in Kochi city.
â€śThis piece of land on the banks of the water body was part of the Chilavanoor backwater itself. It was encroached and filled up as land a few years ago. The concrete debris that is being piled up now on this land has been done with a larger agenda to further encroach and shrink the water body,â€ť Nipun Cherian, an environmentalist and member of Anti Mafia People's Squad, told TNM.
He also alleged that signs of encroachment are being hidden as mud was taken from the water body and used to cover the concrete debris.
When TNM visited the area, the whole site was filled with mud from the lake and the alleged concrete debris deposited there could not be seen.
â€śWe had given complaints regarding dumping of this waste to police and Suchitwa Mission, but no action has been taken,â€ť said environmentalist CR Neelakandan.
KMRL denies allegation
According to the officials of Kochi Metro Rail Limited, the land on the banks of the Chilvanoor Lake, which was allegedly part of the water body only a few years ago, belongs to Kochi Corporation.
â€śThe land was taken on lease by the contractor of the Kochi Metro from the Corporation. They had returned the land back to the Corporation after the work. For the past few months, no work has been done on said piece of land on the bank of the lake. KMRL will ask the contractor whether any debris is being dumped there as the allegation states,â€ť an official of KMRL told TNM.
KMRL also posted on its official Facebook account that "sludge taken away part of routine pre monsoon dredging by civic body is dumped at the land parcel (not in any water body) and is expected to be removed once it is dry."
On the other hand, another project meant to create a cycle track and walkway cutting through the Chilavanoor backwater was mooted by the Kochi Corporation, for which KMRL is the implementing agency. The project suffered a roadblock after protests by residents and environmentalists, and also reportedly does not have clearance from Kerala Coastal Zone Management Authority.