Several doubts were raised by those attending an Open Forum on the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA)-sponsored water supply scheme for Kozhikode city and adjoining areas. It was convened by the Kozhikode Sustainable Development Initiative (KSDI).

The JICA project had been severely criticised by various sections of society as the digging up of roads are causing many hardships. Environmentalists and residents of Peruvannamuzhi aired their concerns regarding damage caused to the Peruvannamuzhi dam and houses there due to rock blasting for the project's intake well construction.

Introducing the subject, KSDI president A. Achuthan said the dug-up roads had been causing many accidents. The same roads would soon be dug up again for laying sewage pipes, KSEB cables, etc., prolonging people's agony, he said. “We get 5-6 months of rain and so we should preserve groundwater sources. What if the Kuttiady river, the source for the JICA project, dries up,” asked Shobheendran, a Professor, who wondered if the project was thrust upon the city without sufficient studies.

A representative of the Association of Graduate Engineers asked about the probability of transmission pipes bursting and whether similar projects had been implemented successfully elsewhere. Abhraham Benhur alleged that a mafia comprising politicians, engineers and contractors had pushed the project through for financial gains despite opposition from several quarters.

Plight of residents

Malayora Vikasana Samiti president Rajan Varkey highlighted the plight of Chakkittapara residents who lived in the vicinity of the Peruvannamuzhi dam. Mr. Varkey said rock blasting had caused severe damage to houses in the area.

He said that people living downstream feared for the safety of the dam as boulders had been coming off the structure. A protection wall alongside the dam got washed away last year, he said.

Replying to questions, JICA project director T.C. Subran said the Peruvannamuzhi dam had adequate water to cater to irrigation and drinking water needs. He said the water from the Banasurasagar dam and the Kuttiyadi Hydel project would be channelled to Peruvannamuzhi.

Centre for Water Resources Development former executive director E.J. James, who moderated the forum, corrected the assertion of Mr. Subran that 167 tmc feet water from the Banasurasagar dam would be available as part of an inter-basin transfer. Dr. James clarified that the Cauvery Water Tribunal had not provided any additional water for the JICA scheme in its award.

Mr. Subran said the JICA project was commissioned following a detailed study by the Tata Consultancy Services in 1993.

He said the city's existing drinking water scheme was commissioned in 1970. Similar projects had been implemented successfully in Bangalore and Hyderabad, Mr. Subran said. Over 50 per cent of the work on the project was complete, he added.

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