A project of the State Irrigation Department to link the canals of Alappuzha to the sea and thereby clean them has received environmental clearance from the Centre for Earth and Science Studies (CESS), which was entrusted with the environmental impact assessment (EIA) of the project.

With the environmental clearance, the project, the initial cost estimates of which are pegged at Rs.4 crore, will shortly be given administrative sanction by the government, Finance Minister T.M. Thomas Isaac told The Hindu.

The project envisages allowing inflow of sea water through two one-metre diameter pipes during summer, which would help eco-restoration of the canals that are currently polluted heavily with aquatic weeds and garbage.

The two main canals here, the Commercial Canal and the Vada Canal and three cross canals connecting these two, form the network to carry salt water once the project gets operational. The Uppootti canal will be connected to the sea to let the seawater into the Commercial Canal, which is the longest at 3,500 metres while the combined length of all the canals is 8,820 metres.

The canals, which have been identified to have 17 types of aquatic weeds, are also connected to six padasekharams (farm collectives) at the east end, covering an area of 961 acres. The EIA, which points out that paddy cultivation in these padasekharams might be affected by saline water, recommends synchronisation of the opening and closure of the sea water inflow regulation valve with the crop calendar so as to avoid such damage.

A model study to ascertain the distance up to which the sea water will have influence in the padasekharams is already on, according to the EIA.

Though there might be a marginal impact on the ground water, ground water here is not used for domestic purposes, thus doing away with that negative aspect as well, the EIA notes. At the same time, CESS also calls for involvement of neighbourhood groups to remove the withered or semi-withered vegetative matter and weeds from the canal once the project is on.

“Unless the water is clean, the canal beautification projects that spruce up the canal banks will serve no purpose. The stench will drive the people away,” is how Mr. Isaac explains the idea behind the project.