NGT had received a complaint from Lawrence regarding mass destruction of wetlands and a 10-acre pond inside the Technopark campus. In 2018, the tribunal directed the district collector, Thiruvananthapuram, to look into the matter and take appropriate action in accordance with law.
The collector filed a report which said that no action could be taken at the level of district collector since the revenue department had accorded sanction for reclamation of 861.2 acres in Attipra village as per relevant provisions of Kerala Conservation of Paddy and Wetland (Amendment) Ordinance, 2017. The government granted exemption for the purpose of development of Technopark (Phase III) considering the project as falling under public purpose. The collector also stated that while granting exemption, the government also directed that necessary safeguards shall be maintained for water conservation.
The counsel appearing for state government told the court that the lands were covered by land acquisition notifications showing that they were paddy land/converted paddy land and/or dry land and not wetland. He also said that huge constructions had already been undertaken after obtaining all permissions, including permissions under Section 10 of the Kerala Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetland Act, 2008 and that the land involved in the present case has not been identified as a wetland in the draft list prepared by state wetland authority.
SC ruled that it is open to the petitioner to challenge the order of collector in accordance with the law and that if such challenge is made within a period of eight weeks from the day of judgment, the petitioner’s challenge will not be dismissed solely on the ground of delay.
Taurus Investment Holdings (TIH) India, which has undertaken the Downtown project work, said in a statement that works will resume. “We are extremely happy with the order of disposal by the Supreme Court considering that this is a very important project for the IT sector of the state and expected to provide more than 20,000 jobs on completion. We will immediately remobilize works on a war footing following Covid protocols prescribed by the state government,” the statement read. Lawrence said the issue is still live and court has only asked to follow the procedure.
Technopark signed the agreement with TIH to set up the Taurus Downtown in 2018. Taurus Downtown is being set up by a joint venture between TIH and Embassy Property Development Holdings.