Members of various residents’ associations in the city, nature lovers and green activists have formed a committee, named Mangalavanam Protection Committee, with the aim to oppose the project.

Kerala govts plan to build expo centre near a bird sanctuary raises hacklesErnakulam District Website
news Environment Monday, July 01, 2019 - 12:58

“An incredible green spot with an extensive variety of life and that too, amid a buzzing metro,” the official website of Kerala Tourism describes the spawling Mangalavanam Bird Sanctuary in Kochi, Ernakulam district. Situated in the heart of the city, the seven-acre green cover is vastly covered with mangroves. But the city residents and environmental activists are now apprehensive about the sustenance of this green cover, which is considered the respiratory system of Kochi.

The state government has announced a multi-crore project, an international exhibition centre, which will come up adjacent to the Mangalavanam Bird Sanctuary. The exhibition centre will be constructed by Kerala State Housing Board at a cost of Rs 3,105 crore on 18 acres of land near the Mangalavanam Bird Sanctuary.

Its proximity to the ecologically sensitive spot has become the cause for concern among the residents in the city. Members of various residents’ associations in the city, nature lovers and green activists have formed a committee, named Mangalavanam Protection Committee, with the aim to oppose the project. Members of the committee state that the construction of the high-rise could adversely impact the existence of the bird sanctuary.

Why residents are disappointed

The bird sanctuary, situated right behind the Kerala High Court in Kochi, is a roosting place for as many as 32 different species of birds. Among the four species of Mangroves located amidst the shallow tidal lake, Acanthus ilicifolius is considered to be endangered, while Rhizophora mucronata is listed as vulnerable according to International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The sanctuary, which is open to the public between 10 am and 5 pm, is also inhabited by animals such as Indian flying fox, painted bat, Eurasian otter and palm squirrel.

According to retired justice K Sukumaran, who is part of the Mangalavanam Protection Committee, if the sanctuary is disturbed, it could prove calamitous to the residents living in the neighbouring areas.

He also feels that the project has been announced with a vested interest. “Similar projects near the bird sanctuary were mooted earlier as well; but Binoy Viswam, the then forest minister, had rejected these proposals, citing environmental impact. Now, with the current government in the process of implementing this project, we can say it is a move with a vested interest, without considering the health of the city,” Justice K Sukumaran told TNM.

Meanwhile, some are questioning the need for the project. “Aren’t there enough exhibition centres and halls in Kochi already?” asks George Kattunilath, a member of the committee, adding, “Construction of this centre will further obstruct the passageway of birds to the sanctuary.”

‘Will execute only after assessment study’

In the wake of criticisms, the Kerala State Housing Board has made it clear that the project will be implemented only after conducting an environmental assessment study. “We will convene a meeting with those who have raised criticisms and will consider their opinions and suggestions. We will commission the work of the project to a renowned agency, which is acceptable to all parties,” Housing Board Chairman P Prasad told TNM.

He also added that many private players had also tried to acquire this land from the government prior to the Housing Board buying it.

“The 18 acres of land, where the project will be implemented, does not border Mangalavanam Bird Sanctuary. We have also earmarked a buffer area of about four acres of land for afforestation work. Moreover, the centre will be built as per green protocol and reduce the use of non-eco friendly substances to a minimum during its construction,” the Chairman said.

Meanwhile, the Mangalavanam Protection Committee has planned to meet Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan to raise the issue.

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