Rs.65-crore water supply project can benefit over a lakh

A major drinking water project, which could mitigate water woes of over a lakh people, is facing the threat of ending up a big flop if the minor task of cleaning up a canal is not taken up urgently.

The project in question is the Rs.65-crore comprehensive drinking water supply project announced in October 2012 for the four panchayats of Kalliyoor, Venganoor, Vizhinjam, and Kovalam.

A sum of Rs.2 crore has been sanctioned by Finance Minister K.M. Mani in his recent budget for laying the distribution pipeline network. The project has Rs.14 crore from the Tourism Department, a Rs.22-crore loan from the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Nabard), Rs.1 crore from the Corporation, and the rest, from various sources, including the district panchayat coffers.

Preparations for the project are in full steam, with tenders already invited for a 22-MLD (million litres per day) water treatment plant on the Vellayani College of Agriculture campus.

The tenders are under scrutiny at the Kerala Water Authority (KWA) headquarters, with a final decision expected in two weeks, while the Corporation’s share of Rs.1 crore is expected to be deposited before March 31.

The Tourism Department’s share is already deposited while the Nabard loan has been passed. The panchayats too have deposited their shares and are finalising land acquisition for two water tanks at Muttakadu in Venganoor and at Peringammala in Kalliyoor.

‘Work to start soon’

KWA officials said work was expected to start in a month and the project was slated for commissioning in a year, with water to be supplied through existing pipelines till the new distribution network was completed.

However, one factor is keeping officials and the panchayats on their toes. The source of water for the entire project is the Vellayani Lake. And the lake has a history of severe water shortage during summers. “If the lake dries up, the entire project, expected to end water woes of over a lakh people, including tourists in the internationally popular Kovalam, could end a major fiasco,” said district panchayat vice-president Rufus Daniel.

It is not that there is no solution to this potential threat, he said, pointing out that the lake used to be recharged with water from the Neyyar dam that reached the lake via the Vellayani West canal.

“However, the canal has been neglected for long, with just a few half-hearted attempts at clearing blockages. Cleaning projects for the canal have been on paper for years. Repeated requests to the Irrigation Department have elicited assurances, but nothing else. I will call it criminal negligence on their part,” Mr. Daniel said.

The district panchayat had initiated a Rs.26-crore project for protection of the lake. But without free flow of water through the canal to recharge it during summer, no project could be of any meaning, he added.