Spots like Swapna Nagiri, which is often used as a popular fair ground and a public event venue, can be seen with piles of decomposed garbage dredged out from the bottom of the canal

A Rs. 2.41-crore Water Resources Department project to clean up the Canoly Canal is turning out to be more a bane than a boon with mounds of silt piled up along the water body’s sidewalls, posing a health hazard to the public.

Spots like Swapna Nagiri, which is often used as a popular fair ground and a public event venue, can be seen with piles of decomposed garbage dredged out from the bottom of the canal.

This is when the Water Resources Department rulebook says that such silt should be deposited at a distance of minimum 5 km away from the source (canal) and in a place which does not cause inconvenience to the public.

Residents are apprehensive that the silt, which has hardened over the past days owing to the heat, may either fall back into the canal or find its way into the canal if not removed before the onset of the monsoon.

“Usually, a certain time is given for the water to drain from the silt mounds and then they are transported to a pre-arranged place for dumping,” Jose Abraham, a senior Water Resources Department official, said.

Officials say that the silt removed would be used to level the roads along the canal and other development works in the city. They said silt is being removed from various places.

But this may be wishful thinking. Even now, as the cleaning work progresses, the authorities have no comprehensive solution to stop or treat the continuing flow of garbage into the canal.

Over the years, the canal has been reduced into a watery dumpyard for the city’s waste.

The Public Works Department and Kozhikode Corporation have 70 drainage pipes with their outlets into the canal. But authorities have no clear plan to stop the flow of untreated water from hospitals and establishments from flowing into the canal.

Again, various institutions, including two major hospitals, in the city dispose their waste through the Corporation’s drainage lines.

The authorities are not sure of the nature of the waste, as it is flushed out during high tide and at night, when the water level in the canal is much higher that the drain openings. Over the years, a lot of silt has accumulated around these openings, affecting the flow of water in the canal.

The Water Resources Department has proposed construction of silt pits at the points were the drainage pipes meet the canal.

But crores have been spent on cleaning the Canoly Canal in the past, however, with no results. District administration records show that Rs.7.5 crore was spent between 1997 and 2010 on various projects to desilt the canal.

Degradation owing to non-protection of banks, indiscriminate encroachment, dumping of solid waste, and polluted water has left the canal an eyesore.

The present work of the 11.4-km stretch of the canal from Elathur to Kallayi is part of a National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD)-assisted project to revive the inland waterway. By National Waterway standards, the canal has to be 35 metres wide, 2.5 metres deep below the water level and any bridge on it should be 7 metres above the water level.

The project, estimated at a total cost of Rs.4.6 crore, has been approved by the Shipping and Navigation Department. It includes strengthening of sidewalls to protect against encroachment.

The man-made canal, named after Malabar Collector R. Connoly of the erstwhile British regime, is also known as the Elathur Kallayi canal. It was constructed during the tenure of Canoly in 1848 and used as a major waterway, shipping goods and ferrying passengers in the district, till the late 1950s.

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