The prospect of water hyacinth choking major canals and freshwater bodies in the city to death looms large as the authorities have failed to come up with proposals for controlling the weed.

Water hyacinth has spread over most of the water bodies in the city and adjoining areas, affecting the aquatic life as well as water quality. Livelihood options of traditional fishermen too have been hit by the aquatic weed. The swathes of weed over the waterbody prevent the penetration of sunlight into the water and reduce the quality of water. The decaying vegetative parts too add to the environmental hazards caused by the plants.

A section of the fishermen from the district has announced agitation demanding steps to control the weed. However, the local legislator and civic administrators said no effective solution was available for controlling the weeds. The people’s representatives also differed on their views regarding the purchase of floating excavators for manually removing the weeds from the waterbodies.

Kochi Mayor Tony Chammany and Works Standing Committee chairperson Soumini Jain suggested that the weeds could be removed as part of the pre-monsoon cleaning drive. Tenders would be floated for awarding the works shortly, they said.

Ms. Jain said installing nets at inlet points for preventing the weeds entering the canal networks and water bodies was impractical as vessels and country boats move through them regularly. Each year, the job of cleaning the canals is auctioned. Removing weeds would be possible only once a year. Last year, the local body had shelled out around Rs. 5 crore for cleaning its canal and de-silting them, she said.

While both the civic administrators ruled out the proposal for buying a floating excavator for the work, Hibi Eden, Ernakulam MLA, said the city had to have such machines for cleaning and de-silting its canals.

According to Mr. Chammany, the Kochi Corporation didn’t have an enviable reputation regarding the ownership and maintenance of high-value machinery. A sucker machine, which was provided to the local body a decade ago by then Tourism Minister K.V. Thomas for cleaning the drains and a floating excavator developed by one of its engineers were later abandoned, he said.

Considering the lack of expertise in using and maintaining such expensive machines in the local body, it would be advisable to outsource the work, he said.

However, Mr. Eden said that the local body should own such machines considering the city specific situations. There were no provisions for using the funds of the legislators for such works. The support of agencies such as the Department of Irrigation had to be sought to clean the canals, he said.

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