The heat beats down on the countryside. The water level in wells, ponds and public drinking water sources has hit its nadir. The spectre of a tough time with no water to drink looms large with the skies showing no signs of opening up.

The authorities remain helpless and confused, desperate for a solution. Ironically, at a time when they are at their wits end with public drinking water sources fast drying up, not far from the city, in fact, under the very Corporation limit, are a set of large water bodies called Mankuzhi (clay pit), which remain neglected by the public as well as the local bodies for lack of vision and political will for using them effectively.

Spread over acres

These Mankuzhi located at Sharada Mandiram, Srambia, and Rahman Bazar areas under the Corporation limit are large lake-like water bodies formed about 50 years ago when huge volumes of clay were mined from these area for the myriad tile factories situated in the nearby areas. Each is spread over many acres of land. Among several other purposes, they have also been keeping the water-levels of the nearby domestic wells intact all these years.

According to the residents, these water bodies are very deep and get rejuvenated every year by the monsoon.

Paddy fields of yore

“Initially they were scattered patches of water, and then over a period of time they developed into huge lakes fed by the rain,” says K.P. Sooraj Babu, a 65-year-old resident, who still remembers the days when these Mankuzhi were paddy fields. What they need to do, among other things, is to erect a boundary wall around these waterbodies, strictly prohibit release of sewage from houses and other waste materials into them besides ensuring potability of the water from time to time.

Many people already use the water from these ponds for different purposes. The innumerable number of pump sets dotting the screw pine bordered banks of the waterbodies stand testimony to the extensive use of water.

While some use the water for irrigation purposes, others use it for industrial purposes. It is said some hotels also use the water for washing dishes and cleaning the floors. “At least 100 lorries carry tank-full of water from these ponds to different parts of the city every day. We don’t know what purpose they are for,” says K.P Ajayan, another resident of Srambia.

“If the authorities want to protect these ponds and utilise them for the drinking needs of the water-starved city, half of the Mankuzhi here are enough for the entire city’s needs,” says Mr. Ajayan.

C. Shareena, councillor, says these ponds have immense potential to be developed as drinking water sources for the entire region. The drought-relief fund as well as the amount allocated by the council for protecting ponds can be utilised for it, says Ms. Shareena. “Otherwise, it’s like starving amidst the abundance,” she adds.

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