Kozhikode Corporation in a bind over STPs

It has been over six months since residents around the site of the proposed sewage treatment plant (STP) at Avikkal Thodu in Kozhikode Corporation started a fight against the project. Several attempts of the corporation authorities to get them on board have failed.

On the other hand, the corporation is desperate to go ahead with the project as the due date to complete projects under the first phase of the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) is March 2023.

The Kozhikode Corporation is planning two STPs — one at Avikkal (7 MLD) and another at Kothi (6 MLD) at a cost of ₹139.5 crore. Trouble started when the local people of both fishing villages realized how close the proposed sites are to their living quarters. They demanded that the corporation move it to a less populated area.

The local protest committee at Kothi managed to get an order from the Kerala High Court asking the corporation to maintain the status quo. The people of Avikkal, who are convinced that the STP will generate stench and pollute the water in the nearby Vellayil fishing harbor, launched protests which eventually turned violent.

“The corporation is trying to treat the liquid waste from nearby apartment complexes at our expense. We will be left out. And how can we convince ourselves that the plant will be well-maintained when the corporation has not been able to maintain even the public toilets properly?” asks Dawood T., chairman of the anti-STP protest committee at Avikkal.

The protesters say the proposed site is an encroached portion of Avikkal Canal, filled with garbage and, hence, is unsuitable for any sort of construction legally.

The corporation has tried to explain that the Moving Bed Biofilm Reactor (MBBR) technology being used for the two STPs is foolproof and there is no possibility of pollution of any kind. The maintenance of the STPs is being entrusted with construction agencies, after which the corporation plans to train people from the locality to do so.

Cleaning of Avikkal Thodu near Vellayil in Kozhikode city under the aegis of the Kozhikode Corporation is under way. The cleaning that started at the beginning of the month has progressed well despite the non-cooperation of the local people in protest against the proposed sewage treatment plant project here. The accumulation of garbage in the canal that passes through four wards of the corporation had resulted in continuous flooding of the nearby areas in the last few years. | Photo Credit: K Ragesh

“Kothi and Avikkal could be default locations for STPs in Kozhikode as the AMRUT guidelines suggest the most densely populated and most polluted parts of the city for such projects. We are not in a position to shift them out now that the projects have been approved by the State,” says Health Standing Committee Chairperson of the Corporation S. Jayasree.

The issue took a political turn when the United Democratic Front joined the protesters claiming that their apprehensions were genuine. The involvement of political parties such as the Social Democratic Party of India, allegedly a radical Islamist organization, on the protest committee and the visit of some people with Maoist links to the protest site have given the ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist) a political weapon against the protests.

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