KOCHI: After Edakochi and Puthuvypeeen, Mulavukad is the new place to join the list of areas bearing the brunt of development by losing its mangroves and wetlands. In the last one year, opening of Vallarpadam Container Terminal Road has resulted in the destruction of mangroves and filling up of wetlands in the area.
The process began when acres of wetland under Mulavukad panchayat were acquired and filled during the construction of the Container Terminal Road. Then, however, the wetlands that were directly lined to the backwaters were left unharmed and so were the mangroves on either side of the road.
“After the Container Road was opened, the land prices here have skyrocketed. The land which was sold for `6000 eight years ago, has now touched a value over `30 lakh and the price is only increasing. Therefore, people are opting to fill their wetlands to use it for some projects,” said P N Xavier, local committee member, CPI.
A provision under the Kerala Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetland Act, 2008, says that the owner, occupier or the person in custody of any paddy land shall not undertake any activity for the conversion or reclamation of such paddy land. In exceptional cases, any such action will need the careful scrutiny and recommendation by the committees at the local level, the district level and the state level.
“Most of the filling up happens overnight. Since the work on the Container Road is still in progress, the deposition of mud near the road often goes unnoticed. It is only later that we see that the mud has been used to fill in the paddy fields and then flattened off. In a few months, this flattened area is hardly recognisable as the grass and weeds spread over it and it becomes a part of the whole structure,” said a local resident.
The fishing community has been the worst affected. "Over the years, this area has been witnessing paddy cultivation and prawn farming in alternate seasons. Now, that hardly happens. Also, mangroves were an active breeding ground for many fish including prawns and Pearl Spot (Karimeen). All these are getting affected due to the destruction of mangroves here. We have sent written complaints to the Chief Minister, the fisheries department and other officials,” said Stephan De Silva, president, Mulavukad Matsya Thozhilali Movement.
Also, locals aired their concern over soil and water salinity in the panchayat area. They say these are aftereffect of the destruction of wetlands and mangroves. “Several sources of fresh water now have saline water as the sea water has made inroads into the groundwater. This is happening because of the absence of natural water filters like wetlands and mangroves. Even the canals and other waterbodies are getting saline,” said Ansily Arooja, joint convenor, Mulavukad Vikasana Samithi.
However, Mulavukad panchayat president has a different story to tell. “Most of the wetland owners say that they are not getting any returns from the land after the opening of the Container Road. Therefore, they have been filling up the land to negotiate with the government, ” said A K Dinakaran, president, Mulavukad panchayat.