THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) has directed the State Government to withdraw the latter’s order relating to paddy cultivation in the land around the Vellayani Lake.
In an order passed on Monday, Commission member S. Verghese has called for an immediate differentiation between Government and private land around the Vellayani Lake and for a Government take over of the land around the lake after evicting encroachers.
The Government should take over the land around the lake for which title deeds (pattayam) has been given to different people. Such people should be provided compensation. The Vigilance Department should be asked to probe the granting of the title deeds for land around the lake, the order says.
The Commission has also directed the State Government to work with the Ministry of Environment and Forests to take steps to protect the lake as a source of drinking water.
A committee headed by the District Collector, Thiruvananthapuram, comprising officials from the Revenue Department, the Kerala Water Authority and the police, should be formed for protecting the lake.
The committee should review its functioning two times a year. Anti-pollution signboards should be placed around the lake and fish farming should be encouraged in a controlled manner, the order says.
On January 27, 2005 the Commission had stayed the Government move to promote paddy farming on a portion of the lake after draining the area. The Commission also appointed C. Sundaresan, Dean, faculty member of Agriculture, College of Agriculture, Vellayani, as a commission to study the problems related to the Vellayani Lake and the steps to preserve it as a freshwater resource.
The inquiry commission’s report submitted last year expressed reservations over the Government move to promote paddy farming on a portion of the Vellayani freshwater lake bordering the city. The report warned that the move would endanger the reservoir and threaten several drinking water projects servicing the neighbouring panchayats.
The report recommended a Revenue survey to demarcate the reservoir area and identify encroachments. It called for steps to evict all illegal occupations, fencing the entire boundary of the lake and for deployment of security guards. The study stressed the need to create a green belt of bamboo, casuarinas or mangroves around the lake, for restrictions on the use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides and steps to check pollution of the water by solid waste and sewerage. The report also proposed controlled fish farming in the lake to improve the water quality.
Another report submitted to the Commission by the Water Resources Department had also warned that reclamation of the rain-fed lake would reduce its recharge capacity and impact on the hydrological system. The report said the Vellayani Lake has the potential to be developed as a major water supply source for the neighbouring villages and parts of the city.