For the past several years, residents of Vattiyoorkavu panchayat have lived in fear of the approaching monsoon. That is the time of the year when their water sources turn black with the increased leachate runoff from the City Corporation's garbage plant at Vilappilsala.

Due to this, the Kerala Water Authority shuts the pump house feeding water from the Meenampally canal, an upstream tributary of the Karamana River, to the distribution network. Most of the wells are also heavily polluted due to the mixture of rainwater and leachate.

This year is no different. The heavy pre-monsoon showers brought misery to hundreds of families, as the leachate flow polluted the river water and wells.

“It is difficult to control the leachate flow during the rainy season,” says Babu Ambatt, executive director of the Centre for Environment Development (CED), the agency that manages the garbage plant along with the Corporation.

The soak pits dug by the Corporation to provide a natural land filter for the leachate provided only a temporary solution. The construction of a leachate treatment unit that would have checked the pollution at source is nowhere near completion. Under the Rs.1.25-crore project, leachate from the accumulated waste will be collected in tanks, recycled in an oxidation plant and used for garbage treatment.

Design problems

The private contractor who was awarded the construction stopped work last November citing design problems. Though the work was recently resumed, the commissioning of the unit that was scheduled to go on stream by mid May is now likely to take another eight months.

Officials feel that the Corporation could have expedited the work. “Money is not a problem. In December 2008, the Corporation received Rs.34 crore from the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) as assistance for solid waste management. The design flaw could have been sorted out in days but it has already taken months,” an official said.

Vattiyoorkavu panchayat president Pazhaniya Pillai said disruption of water supply, due to pollution of river water, made life miserable for the residents. The JICA-assisted water supply scheme that was commissioned this year held out the promise of uninterrupted water supply from an alternate source. But residents in the Malamugal, Mulavukad and Kachani found their hopes dashed because the overhead reservoir supplying water to the network of pipes was not of the required height.

“The solution is to use the old reservoir that is built at a higher level but that will require installation of pumps to raise the water from the new tank. The panchayat does not have the funds for the work,” he said.

Solution emerges

Last week, in a bid to sort out the issue, Mr. Pillai held discussions with Mayor C. Jayan Babu and officials from the Corporation and KWA. Chairman of the Corporation's standing committee on Health G.R. Anil said the Corporation had expressed willingness to foot the financial expense for supply of safe drinking water in the suburban village. “We have decided to seek government approval to sanction the amount,” he said.