World Rivers Day is being observed today

Even as World Rivers Day is observed on Sunday, the Central Travancore region, comprising Pathanamthitta, Kottayam, and parts of Alappuzha, is fast becoming a graveyard of rivers and natural streams owing to indiscriminate sand-mining, encroachments, and pollution.

The Pampa, regarded as the lifeline of Central Travancore, is the worst-affected owing to man’s criminal neglect of the environment and river conservation, N.K. Sukumaran Nair, general secretary, Pampa Parirakshana Samiti, said.

Mr. Nair told The Hindu that almost all rivers in the State had been severely affected owing to dumping of waste, illegal sand-mining, encroachments, and unscientific construction activities. But the Pampa, he said, had almost lost its water-holding capacity. As a result, floodwaters reached the downstream very quickly after rain ceased. The situation along the upper reaches of the river near Kozhencherry amply testified to the degradation of the river system, Mr. Nair said.

A riverbed without any sand deposits had led to the loss of the water-holding capacity, he said. The rampant extraction of river sand had lowered the riverbed by 4.5 to 10 metres along various stretches of the river in the past three decades.

Reclamation of wetlands in the Pampa basin, deforestation and other forms of removal of green cover, and dumping of all kinds of waste into the waterbody had contributed to the current state of affairs, Thomas P. Thomas, environmentalist and botany professor at St. Thomas College, Kozhencherry, said.

Besides the Pampa, two other rivers, the Achenkovil and the Manimala, that emptied into Vembanad Lake were also found to be contributing to the pollution of Kuttanad in a big way. The authorities should take all steps to make use of the Central support for river pollution abatement, he said.

Mr. Nair alleged that the casual approach of the government machinery had left the Pampa Action Plan (PAP), the State’s first river conservation scheme under the National River Conservation Programme, a non-starter. Though the Union government had allotted Rs.11.5 crore in May 2003 to implement the first phase of the scheme over the next four years, the State authorities had failed to comply with the guidelines fixed by the National River Conservation Directorate for implementing the scheme, he alleged.

Mr. Nair said the government should take all steps to implement the PAP.

The United Nations has been observing the last Sunday of September as World Rivers Day since 2005 as part of its decision to observe the period from 2005 to 2015 as Water for Life Decade. World Rivers Day is observed in association with various international organisations that work for conservation of water, environment, public health, and the United Nations University.

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