Even as shortage of drinking water is getting severe by the day in Kuttanad, the threat of a cholera outbreak has added to the water-logged region's woes.
In May 2009, there was an outbreak of cholera in the same area as the result of sewage seeping into drinking water pipelines. Sources said a recent survey by the Health Department found dangerous levels of coliform bacteria, including e.coli, in a majority of water sources in Kuttanad, following which the department is learnt to have alerted higher-ups on the possibility of a cholera outbreak. The survey, however, is yet to be made public.
Meanwhile, with no concrete action taken to ensure pure water for the public here after last year's outbreak, the situation has only worsened with people struggling to find water even for cattle. Supply of water through pipelines, which on the other hand do not reach the remote areas of Kuttanad, is not regular either, with some areas getting water only once in two or three days. Lack of maintenance of existing networks and failure to pump water at scheduled intervals has added to the dilemma.
According to residents of Kainakary, where the shortage is at its worst, there is no water to give to cattle since water from the Vembanad Lake and the Pampa River has turned saline after shutters of the Thanneermukkom Barrage were opened recently. The areas that are suffering from the shortage of water for drinking and general purposes as well include Kainakary, Naduthuruthu, Nehru Trophy Ward, Kuttamangalam, Kuttamangalam West, East Chenamkary, Cherukayal Kayal, Puthenkayal, R-Block and Pallathuruthy.
Efforts to supply water via boats too have failed with labour issues cropping up. The daily wage for a labourer who takes water on boats around the region from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. was Rs.120 a day. Though this was hiked to Rs.150, the labourers are not interested since the Revenue Department is yet to pay many of them their dues from last year's summer, according to official sources.
Interestingly, Water Resources Minister N.K. Premachandran had announced on June 9 last year, following the cholera outbreak that effective steps would be taken to ensure pure water to Kuttanad.
The Kerala Water Authority's consultancy wing, WASCON, had even submitted a detailed project report for a Rs.185 crore long-term comprehensive water supply project. That, along with a short-term project worth Rs.52 lakhs, is still on paper.