The Karamana and the Killi sustain a variety of aquatic life and birds

The Pozhikkara estuary where the Karamana river empties into the sea is an ecologically unique region that has flora and fauna that are adapted to both fresh water and salt water. All along the pozhi, one can see the deadly Othalam fruits floating around, both green ones and dried shells too. The river runs parallel to the coast in its final lap to the sea and the segment of the river here is referred to as Edayar. This part of the river is really rotten and still. The river and sea are in a constant play at the estuary and the colours of the water are in great contrast. The injection of the Parvathi Puthanar’s dark waters into Karamana river gives it a black colour that is in striking contrast with the bluish green sea water.

Fishes in the river seem to be different in the city and upstream. Mallan Kani who lives upstream of the river in Peppara basin region is used to catching Karimeen, Chekkaali, Kariyida, Paruminali, Cherumeen and Vaala from the river. Vijayan who lives on the bank of the river in Mudavanmughal names the popular fishes in the river as Kuruttu Vlank (Nedumeen), Aaral, Maalavu, Paaval and Karimeen. Paddy fields and thottams (gardens) on the banks have simply vanished, leaving behind their memories with old timers.

Vishakam Tirunal, a passionate botanist who was a fellow of the Linnaean Society, used the Karamana river bank as his test field (he used to collect plants early in the morning and is said to have used the Thirumala Palace as his laboratory for plant studies. The palace that he built inside the fort is conspicuous with designs that depict creepers and flowers).

In Modern Travancore – A Handbook Of Information (1941), A. Padmanabha Iyer says: Scientific agriculture in Travancore is about 60 years old. It was Visakham Tirunal (1880-1885) who first realised the value of scientific agriculture to the people and showed that two blades of grass could be grown where one grew before. I have a vivid recollection of his small experimental farm in the Kandukrishi (crown) compound on the bank of Karamanai River near the bridge. There he planted tobacco and watched its growth under scientific treatment. But his name has gone down to these two generations for another innovation in the economic life of the people, namely, the introduction of tapioca.

A. Sukumaran Nair, who was a resident of Maruthankuzhy half a century ago, remembers the flood of the Killi river which sometimes brought animals from the Nedumangad forest through the river including pythons. Veruku (Civet cat/toddy cat) also floated down and hid in the Thazhampoo foliage that lined the river near the Anakettu. There were local people adept in catching them using jute bags as hand gloves. They were sold for the medicinal value they claim to have. Jayson Joseph, a bird watcher, writes in www. jaysonjc.com about his expedition from Maruthankuzhy bridge upstream along the Killi river bank. He opines that Killi supports a good population of birds in the city. In two hours covering approximately two km along the river side, he spotted more than 12 bird species: Common Myna (Acridotheres tristis), House Crow (Corvus splendens), Yellow-billed Babbler (Turdoides affinis), Black Kite (Milvus migrans), Chestnut-headed bee-eater (Merops leschenaulti), Greater Coucal (Centropus sinensis), Little Cormorant (Phalacrocorax niger), Stork-billed Kingfisher (Pelargopsis capensis), White-breasted Waterhen (Amaurornis phoenicurus), Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis), and Indian Pond Heron (Ardeola grayii).

(Continuing the weekly series on the Karamana river, written by Dr. Achuthsankar S. Nair, head of the Department of Computational Biology and Bioinformatics, University of Kerala. He is a music and history buff. Contact the author at sankar.achuth@gmail.com)