The city is staring at a crisis. The taps in highrises are dry for most part of the day and the homemakers are frantically filling up every bucket they could lay their hands on. And most part of their day is lost in planning for water. Borewells too have dried up because we are tapping them faster than nature can replenish. It is a pointer to the fact that the authorities failed to think ahead of the crisis and initiate steps to protect water sources or prod Kochiiites into harvesting rainwater.
The water crisis will remain unresolved unless the quantity of water pumped out is bulked up. And hopes are on the 100 million litres a day (MLD) treatment plant at Maradu that will source water from the Muvattupuzha river via Piravom. It will take the burden off the Periyar river, the main source of water for the city. The Periyar's treatment plant churns out 225 MLD of water, which is just halfway to city's estimated demand of 410 MLD.
Let's hear what the leaders have to say on the crisis.
K.V. Thomas, Union Minister of State for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution
Represents Ernakulam in Parliament
Water scarcity will be one of the major issues Kerala will have to confront in near future. With the water resources fast drying up and demand increasing steadily, the State should evolve long-term projects. Kerala has failed in various sectors of water conservation, including rainwater harvesting and protection of groundwater sources. Kerala could not even put in place proper sewage treatment system.
Pollution of water bodies, including rivers, needs to brought down. All the 44 rivers of the State have become garbage dumps. The pollution load of the rivers has crossed the limits. Water available in Periyar, a major drinking water source of the city, has come down drastically. Water level has gone down in wells in the Periyar region. Pollution of the river has also affected the quality of water available for city residents. Kerala and Kochi are paying the price for reclaiming wetlands and other water bodies in the State. The reclamation of water bodies, canals and wetlands has prevented the recharging of groundwater sources. Rain that Kerala receives drains quickly to the sea before it could recharge groundwater sources, which further increases water scarcity.
Dominic Presentation, MLA
Represents Kochi constituency in Assembly
The completion of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) aided drinking water project would offer a major solution to the water woes of Kochi city. The project is likely to be completed by March next year. It’s a multi-purpose scheme that would address the issue of water scarcity in many regions including the city, Kumbalam, Maradu, Kumbalanghi and Chellanam. Delay in executing the project has led to cost escalation. We need an additional Rs. 38 crore under the JNNURM initiative to resolve the water scarcity in western Kochi regions. The government has agreed to provide the funds. The objections raised by the Railways in laying pipelines had delayed the extension of the HUDCO water project work to Palluruthy. But the bottlenecks have been removed. The proposed drinking water project with Japanese assistance would offer a long-term solution to the water requirements in areas in Kakkanad.
K. Babu, Minister for Excise and Ports
Represents Tripunithura constituency in the Assembly
A major drinking water project with Japanese aid for the city is on the anvil. The focus is both on short-term- and long-term projects.
The district collector has been empowered to give administrative sanction to all short-term projects before May 31 to meet the demand during this drought. The tender formalities have been reduced from one month to three days. Since Kerala Water Authority pipelines may not reach everywhere, panchayat presidents have been authorized to deploy water tankers. Funds will not be a problem. When there was a drought-like situation during the term of the previous government, I was allocated Rs. 7 lakh as an MLA. But this government has allocated between Rs. 70 lakh and Rs. 1 crore to all MLAs in the district for addressing water shortage. Drinking water shortage in Palluruthy region will be addressed to some extent within a week by making available additional 6 MLD water through the HUDCO project. Work is progressing on the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission drinking water project for supplying 100 MLD water. “The government has allocated Rs. 11 crore to acquire land for the project. The aim is to complete the project before the end of this year.
Hibi Eden, MLA
Represents Ernakulam in Assembly
The worst problem is the salt water incursion into the river as the river bed is below the sea level. Each MLA has been given Rs. 2 crore to set right the water pipelines and motor pump sets. The Chief Minister has also given the go-ahead for any project that can be completed in a year to improve the water supply situation. But the city’s water crisis will have some relief only when the Maradu project is completed. The Maradu project, which will provide water to most parts of West Kochi, will improve the situation in the city. The project, mired in controversy over digging up road in Piravom to bring water from the Muvattupuzha river to Maradu situated across 22 km, is expected to be commissioned by December. The project lost about three years to the controversy. The Japan International Cooperation Agency's project in Kalamassery is still on paper. In Kochi, the distribution system is also skewed.