Potable water is a scarce commodity in the paddy bowl of Kuttanad, making life miserable to the nearly 3.5-lakh population in this low-lying area.
Though surrounded by water round the year, the households in Kuttanad lying two to eight feet below sea level are at the mercy of water vendors to quench their thirst. They buy water at the rate of Rs.500 to Rs.650 for every 1,000 litre. ‘‘We cannot afford this hefty sum and we used to buy a pot of water supplied in country boats at our door step for Rs.10 on alternative days,’’ said Ammini, a farm worker at Thottukadavu.
‘‘Successive governments have failed to implement a proper mechanism for drinking water supply in this region for want of commitment, planning, and scientific management of funds and resources all these years, leaving the innocent people at the receiving end,’’ said Gopakumar Kavalam, writer.
The worst-affected areas are Kavalam, Kainakary, Neelamperoor, Kannady, Kunnumma, Thotukadavu, Thakazhy, and R-Block to mention a few. Kavalam panchayat housed not even a single water storage tank till date, except for the basement constructed by the panchayat, amply exposing the criminal negligence in this regard on the part of the authorities concerned, Mr. Gopakumar said. The umpteen number of ponds and wells to which the local population depended on for their daily domestic chores have been polluted due to lack of maintenance and pollution.
The people’s hope and trust in the Kerala Water Authority, when it started laying pipelines and installing taps in different places, too proved to be a short-lived one with the pipeline network remaining dry in many places.
Dineshkumar Pullangady, a peasant who represents the dominant paddy farming community in Kuttand, told The Hindu that this once paddy-rich place started losing its native charm with the unscientific development spree started a decade ago.
Criss-crossing of unscientifically constructed roads across the canals and other construction works have blocked a large number of natural flood escape routes, leaving the canal waters stagnant and polluted. Callous dumping of waste into it has further worsened the situation, making the canal water not even good for a hand wash.
Though the Revenue Department has spent Rs.1 crore for supplying potable water in tanks to the scarcity-hit areas of Kuttanad this year, there were allegations that the supply failed to reach the gravely affected interior reaches for reasons best known to the authorities concerned.
Country boats carrying water collected in large tanks from Kidangara moving along the Changanacherry-Alappuzha canal is a regular morning scene here. This is besides the water vendors who bring water in country boats from Changanacherry, Thuruthy, Kurichy, and Thiruvalla to the door step of many households situated on the canal banks.
The community here toils much for conducting ceremonies such as marriage and other functions and the first thing they do is making arrangements to ensure sufficient stock of potable water.
Salinity intrusion into the Vembanad lake, rivers and canals following opening of shutters of the Thanneermukkom barrage has further worsened the situation, denying water even to the cattle and irrigation purpose.Bad situation
The situation is equally bad at Kainakari where many households belonging to the low income group resort to the polluted canal waters for their domestic chores. A recent study has identified Kainakari as the village with the largest number of cancer cases in the region.
The alarming water pollution level has often made Kuttand witnessing outbreak of many waterborne diseases such as cholera, Japanese encephalitis, rat fever, dengue, and chikungunya.
The Kuttanad Water Supply Scheme launched in 1967 is yet to serve its purpose as it could not reach the targeted population in the interior reaches of Kuttanad since much of the water stored in tanks at Thiruvalla and Changanacherry is supplied to people in these two municipal limits.