More and more families are seeking permits to construct on Kerala coastlines

However, authorities are refusing to give clearance to many construction and repair work as these are dangerously near to the coast.
More and more families are seeking permits to construct on Kerala coastlines
More and more families are seeking permits to construct on Kerala coastlines
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In the past year, about 718 families in Ernakulam district living near the coast have queued up to seek permission to construct new houses or to start repair work on existing houses.

With a coastline of 46 kilometres and by the presence of majors rivers like Periyar and networks of inland waterways including Vembanad lake and its tributaries, a total of about 61.06 square-kilometre area in the district comes under Coastal Regulation Zone. A major part of that also covers Kochi city, the financial hub of the state, and its suburbs.

And as the population of the city has increased, the number of families seeking permission for construction has gone up as well.

According to Kerala Coastal Zone Management Authority (KCZMA) records, 25 Gram Panchayats, six municipalities including Paravur, Eloor,  Thrikkakara, Kalamassery, Thrippunithura and Maradu as well as the Kochi Corporation come under the purview of the Coastal Regulation Zone. The district also has an ecologically-sensitive mangrove ecosystem with an area of 5.56 square-kilometres.

Among the applications received from January to December last year, the most number of permits sought came from Chellanam Panchayat, where 85 applicants had approached the local body.

“Chellanam is a coastal area which faces the recurrent issue of sea erosion. Therefore, damage to houses is a common phenomena here, but often the CRZ norms make it hard for us to conduct repair or reconstruction activities,” said Shyju, who is also a ward member of the Panchayat.

Out of the total applicants, over a hundred families were denied permits to reconstruct or repair houses.

“Houses in the coastal areas, especially in traditional fishing communities, are mostly in bad shape. Despite using our hard-earned money to fix our homes, the CRZ norms often create a barrier for carrying out work on our houses,” Shyju said.

Following Chellanam, other local bodies with a high number of applications are Pallipuram Gram Panchayat with 80 and Njarakkal Gram Panchayat with 79.

Meanwhile, about 40 requests also came from within the Kochi Corporation limits over the past year.

According to the guidelines given to district-level committees by the KCZMA, in coastal areas, a hundred-metre distance from the High Tide Line (HTL) is marked as a no development zone. “Only reconstruction or repair work of residential buildings by limiting the existing plinth area is allowed, with condition that the family belongs to traditional fishing communities,” an official in the district town planner’s office told TNM.

“Similarly, at a distance of 100 metres to 200 metres from HTL, traditional fishing communities can reconstruct houses with a maximum plinth area of a 100 square-metres. We give permissions if these criteria are fulfilled, or else we will transfer the application to KCZMA for their direct scrutiny. If the application is out right against the rules, we will reject it,” the official said.

In cases involving rivers, backwaters and canals as well, reconstruction can only be conducted in the existing plinth area up to a 100-metre distance from the water body.  

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