Ideally, the abandoned and heavily silted ponds spread across the district should have had a makeover if the panchayat had its way. But the project aimed at reviving ponds and water bodies has failed to take off after more than a year.

The district panchayat had originally proposed the project, imaginatively christened ‘Lotus and Water Lily,’ as a comprehensive intervention in farming with an allocation of Rs. 50 lakh. But then the ambit of the proposal was widened to revive these water bodies and preserve them as fresh water sources.

“We had placed the proposal in the plan projects for the last fiscal. But the technical committee vetting the projects shot it down, asking us to get it implemented under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme rather than using the panchayat’s funds,” district panchayat president Eldhose Kunnappillil told The Hindu.

However, those working under MGNREGS were not too keen to be part of the project may be because it involved working in muddy conditions, he said. Besides, it involved an element of skill as well since protective walls had to be constructed around the revived water bodies.

The project was very dear to the district panchayat and would have made a whole lot of sense considering the current extreme drought-like conditions, he said.

“We are about to include the proposal in the projects for the forthcoming fiscal. Since the technical committee has been done away with we could possibly get the nod from the State government this time,” Mr. Kunnappillil said.

The project will be proposed for Kallurkkadu panchayat and if approved it will be adopted in the rest of the panchayats. The possibility of roping in schools and voluntary organisations in implementing the project could also be explored, he said.

Ernakulam District Residents Association Apex Council president P. Rangadasa Prabhu said local bodies should keep organisations like residents’ associations in the loop while implementing such projects. “The district panchayat had never discussed this project with us,” he said while questioning the feasibility of the project.

Environmentalist John Peruvanthanam calls for a change in outlook wherein water and other natural resources are looked up on only as a means for the gratification of humans alone.

“We cannot protect ponds or water bodies in isolation unless we view it as part of conserving a larger ecosystem comprising paddy fields and wetlands. At a time when water table across the world has dropped by about 3-4 metres, the minimum we can do to conserve our ponds is to give them a tree cover and keep them free of pollutants, including chemicals,” he said.

The district panchayat had made a rough estimate of about 500 neglected ponds of varying sizes in the district. Many of these ponds were found attached to paddy fields and with agriculture losing much of its sheen, they also fell into neglect. In fact, many such ponds were found to be filled up by its owners.

The idea was to initially draw up a list of such ponds with the help of agriculture department so that their existence gets recorded and in case if they happen to disappear in the future then it was possible to fix accountability. The ponds so identified were to be cleaned up and deposited with seeds of lotus and water lily. They were to be conserved with protective walls and boards erected on their banks to propagate the message on the need to preserve water bodies.

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