Construction of temporary bunds is the solution, says official

Kochiites heaved a sigh of relief when drinking water supply from the pumping station of the Kerala Water Authority (KWA) in Aluva was restored at 8 a.m. on Saturday. The pumping station was shut down on Friday afternoon after salinity levels in the Periyar river crossed the 900 ppm (parts per million) mark.

The station supplies 257 mld (million litres per day) water to Kochi city (168 mld), municipalities including Aluva, Kalamassery, Thrikkakara and nearby panchayats. District Collector P.I. Sheikh Pareed said steps had been taken to reduce salinity levels by releasing more water from the Edamalayar dam. Tailrace water would flow from the Edamalayar dam to the Bhoothathanketu dam and would finally enter the Periyar river. Mr. Pareed said KWA officials claimed that salinity levels were around 290 ppm when pumping resumed. Officials said saline water would flow in to areas near the pumping station if the water level in the river receded.

“The immediate solution to the ongoing crisis is to expedite the construction of temporary bunds at Purapallikavu and Pathalam, but bureaucratic red tape seems to be affecting the smooth progress of the work,” an official said.

Officials admitted that every year the Irrigation Department started work on the bund only after residents raised a hue and cry over increasing salinity levels. They said the department failed to take immediate action though it was aware of the periodical intrusion of saline water into the river in November.

A former senior engineer of the KWA alleged that there was a nexus between the contractor undertaking the work and the irrigation department.

An emergency situation would always force authorities to release funds without delay and speed up related administrative clearance. The officials claimed that they were not able to start work in November as rain always hampered the construction of bunds. However, they could not give a convincing answer when it was pointed out that rainfall had slackened by October this year.

Senior officials of the Minor Irrigation Department said work on the temporary bund at Purappallikavu (270 metre) would be completed by December 5. The construction work at Pathalam, which began on Friday night, was expected to be completed in the next five days. The estimated cost of the construction of temporary bunds at Pathalam was about Rs. 31 lakh, authorities said.

More In: Kochi