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Irrigation Department yet to seek clearance: PCB

Kochi Bureau

No final decision yet on who would implement the project

KOCHI: The Kerala State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) revealed on Tuesday that no governmental agency has approached it yet seeking environmental clearance for the proposed airport-seaport waterway project.

The board has also made it clear that it is clueless about whether an environmental impact assessment (EIA) had been carried out, as part of the implementation of the project.

Minister for Water Resources P. J. Joseph had announced here on June 10 that the environmental impact study on the airport-seaport waterway had been done and the work will commence in next three months.

‘Clearance must'

Stating that the implementing agency should get the environment clearance before going ahead, K. Sajeevan, Chairman of the board, told The Hindu that he had received a complaint stating that the project will have an adverse impact on the ecology of the Periyar.

An EIA study has to be carried out, if the distance of the project is 53.5 kilometre, he said. Mr. Sajeevan said that the board will collect more details about the project soon.

Explaining that the board plans to seek a clarification from the Irrigation Department on whether it had applied for environment clearance, M. S. Mythili, Chief Environmental Engineer, Regional office of the board at Ernakulam, said that her office does not have any other information related to the waterway project.

Impact on ecology

Describing that the dredging for the waterway project will increase the depth of the river, S. Sitaraman, Secretary of the Association for Environment Protection, said that the salinity intrusion into the Periyar will step up considerably, if the depth of the river increases further.

He said that the project includes a proposal for dredging the river bed at shallow portions to enable sufficient draft for the fleet in all seasons.

N. Ramachandran, Treasurer of the Kerala River Protection Forum, said that such projects have to be implemented after carrying out extensive studies especially when the Periyar remains a major freshwater source for lakhs of Kochiites.

The project has included suggestions like underwater rock blasting to remove rocky strata in some places of the river section, which will have a negative effect on the ecology of the river, he said.

C. A. Vijayachandran, Executive Director of the Jaladhara Jalasaksharatha Mission, said that the recommendation for transporting aviation fuel to the Cochin International Airport Ltd through the waterway should not be done without assessing its environment impact.

The movement of diesel boats along the waterway will also affect the ecology of the river, he said.

Project agency

Meanwhile senior officials in the Irrigation Department said that it is yet to decide which agency would implement the project. The proposal has been around for some time and the Kerala Shipping and Inland Navigation Corporation (KSINC) was expected to implement it, but the government is yet to take a final decision on it.

The Irrigation Department is ready with the project report that calls for Rs.5-crore investment.

The cost is mainly for setting up solar-powered floating signal lights on the river to demarcate the boat route. The senior official said that the project report has been submitted to KSINC. If they are to implement the project, they will have to take the environment clearance.

Public hearing for the project is also not construed to be important here as the project only involves making the existing route navigable, said the official. As the requirement of the waterway is to have a boat route with a width of 35 metres and depth of 1.8 metres, there is very little requirement of dredging as the Periyar has more than the required width and depth in most of the area it flows here. The 26-km-long route from Pathalam to Kanjoor will require dredging.

The work involves cutting down the sand mounds and moving it to an area of greater depth in the river.

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