Polluted, encroached upon, sand-miners drilling deep into her and much more — life has been tough for the Vellayani Lake, one of the only three freshwater lakes in the State and one of the most important sources of water for a large area of the State capital.
Now, with the sun too beating down hard and the resultant drought compounding the water woes of the already parched Venganoor panchayat, where the lake exists, there is increased pressure on Vellayani. The lake is the primary source of water for the entire Kovalam tourist belt, the panchayats of Venganoor, Vizhinjam, and Kalliyoor, the upcoming Vizhinjam International Container Terminal site and its adjoining areas, and at least three wards of the Thiruvananthapuram Corporation.
Though water is being drawn from the lake for so many areas, one glaring absence is that of a water treatment plant. Now, water enters a shabbily put up intake well at one corner of the lake, from where it is pumped straightaway to distribution lines without any purification process. While the public have protested against this several times, pointing out that the lake was long past the days when anyone could drink water from it without fear, officials repeat that a treatment plant was very much on the cards.
“We have few other options till the proposed treatment plant and two other major drinking water projects — one a Rs.22-crore NABARD-assisted project for Venganoor, Vizhinjam, and Kalliyoor panchayats, and the second a Rs.15-crore Tourism Department project aimed at the Vizhinjam harbour and Kovalam beach areas — come up. Both these will have treatment plants and people can be assured of pure drinking water,” says Rufus Daniel, vice-president, Thiruvananthapuram district panchayat.
The fears of the public in the region are not unfounded. It was not too long ago that a bacteriological and chemical examination of water samples from the lake revealed that while the level of minerals and salts in the water was within permissible limits, the level of faecal coliform and other bacteria was on the higher side.
Since the proposed projects are expected to take at least another year to materialise, the public in the region will have to bite down their fears and make do with whatever indigenous purification methods they have at homes. That is, if the lake manages to survive the present period of drought.