The Pampa river is fast becoming a stagnant cesspool of filth, thanks to the flow of sewage from markets, hospitals, and toilets in the village headquarters and small towns situated on its banks. The polluted Pampa is hosting various waterborne diseases that spread to an epidemic proportion time and again in the two districts of Pathanamthitta and Alappuzha.

During summer, the river dries up. Many wells along its banks have already become dry and water in some others has turned brown with the lowering of groundwater table.

Biodiversity loss

According to Thomas P. Thomas, academic and environmentalist who stays on the banks of the Pampa at Nedumprayar near Kozhencherry, the river is fast losing its natural bio-diversity. “There are visible changes in the constitution of the algal components and this has affected freshwater fish habitats in the river,” he says.

According to him, rising sewage inflow, coupled with the decreasing water availability, has affected the river’s natural cleaning process. The stream, Thanungattil-thodu, that has been a natural flood escape route between the Pampa and the Kozhencherry puncha (paddy land) now drains waste into the river a few metres downstream of the Kozhencherry beridge. Another major health hazard is the overflowing of human waste from the collection tanks of the public latrine complex on the river banks.

Biological hotspot

The government must declare Pampa a biological hotspot, says N.K. Sukumaran Nair, Pampa Parirakshana Samiti general secretary. Filth from the towns of Ranni, Erumely, Manimala, Kozhencherry etc., from Sabarimala during the annual pilgrimage season, and the pesticide-laden run-off from agriculture fields have led to severe water quality deterioration and destruction of fish habitats, according to him.

Salinity intrusion

Mr. Nair says rampant sand-mining is hastening the death of the 176-km long river, the third longest in the State. The riverbed has been lowered by five to six metres over the past 15 years and it has gone down even three metres below the mean sea level along the Edayaranmula-Aranmula stretch, leading to salinity intrusion, especially during summer.

Salinity intrusion was reported up to Edayaranmula and tidal effect up to Aranmula, about 50 km upstream of the salt water front, due to thinning of freshwater flow in Pampa.

The hydraulic gradient increases when the river sand which acts as a natural check dam is removed, thus affecting the groundwater recharging capacity in the river basin, says Mr. Nair.