Environmentalists and local residents have expressed concern over the government move to cut down a large number of trees close to the Thottappally estuary.
A high-level meeting on Thursday had decided to cut trees immediately by invoking various sections under the Disaster Management Act.
The decision was based on an observation that the trees were impeding water flow from the Kuttanad region.
According to officials, around 500 trees, mostly casuarina trees on a land parallel to the Thottappally spillway, will be felled. The meeting also decided to go ahead with the planned removal of mineral-rich sand from the estuary.
The Irrigation Department will sell the sand to the Indian Rare Earths (IRE)/Kerala Minerals and Metals Ltd. (KMML). Environmentalists alleged that the decision to remove trees and extract mineral sand was interconnected.
“Without cutting the trees, they cannot extract sand from the estuary. The move will endanger the ecology of the area. The Thottappally coast is one of the prime locations for egg-laying Olive ridley turtles in the State. It is also home to several species of butterflies and migratory birds,” said, Saji Jayamohan, secretary, Green Roots Nature Conservation Forum.
According to environmentalists large-scale extraction of mineral sand from the area will not help prevent flooding in the Kuttanad region.
“It will result in the intrusion of salt water into Kuttanad. The government should instead deepen the leading channel of the spillway for smooth flow of water, Mr. Jayamohan said.
Sources said that the Forest Department too conveyed its concern to the government over the move to cut down trees. “It is not a forestland. But, we have already made our stand clear at the meeting,” said an official.
Although the meeting decided to invite the expression of interest (EoI) to dredge the downstream and upstream of the spillway along with removing sand deposit from the leading channel at Veeyapuram, the work is unlikely to be carried out before the start of the monsoon season.
The move to remove mineral sand from the estuary comes at a time when local residents are up in arms against the dredging and mineral-sand mining at the Thottappally harbour.
Meanwhile, Irrigation Department officials said that it was imperative to cut down trees and remove sand from the estuary to prevent flooding in Kuttanad.