Staff Reporter

Project to cover 500 acres along the banks of four rivers

MALAPPURAM: Minister for Revenue K.P. Rajendran on Saturday launched a pilot scheme for the conservation of river banks in Malappuram district. Four rivers — the Bharatapuzha, Chaliyar, Kadalundipuzha, and the Thoothapuzha — will benefit from the project being implemented under the Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Act (formerly National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) and the River Management Fund (RMF).

Saplings of bamboo, vetiver (‘ramacham’), and other trees, including mahogany, will be planted on the banks of the four rivers as part of the project. Mr. Rajendran launched the scheme by planting the saplings, along with Minister for Local Self-Government Paloli Mohammed Kutty, District Collector M.C. Mohandas and district panchayat president

Arimbra Mohammed at a function held on the banks of the Bharatapuzha at Chembikkal, Kuttippuram.

Mr. Rajendran lauded the efforts of the Malappuram district administration in chalking out the plan for the conservation of river banks. Malappuram is the only district from the State to be included among the 50 districts across the country for the convergence project under the Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Act. The farms of Munderi and Chungathara along the banks of the Chaliyar have been included in the scheme.

The unique river bank conservation project of Malappuram district will cover 500 hectares, said the District Collector. He said all stakeholders, including sand-mining labourers and local people, would be involved in the river bank conservation scheme. Awareness will be created of the significance of plants like bamboo and vetiver, he said.

Agencies such as the Kerala Forest Research Institute (KFRI) and the Bamboo Corporation will extend their cooperation for the project. A sum of Rs. 1.8 crore from the RMF will be spent for the conservation in the initial phase.

India has the second largest bamboo cultivation in the world. While bamboo is known as the “wood of the next century,” vetiver is known among botanists as the ‘Rolls Royce of plants.’

First in the State

No other district in the State has adopted the vetiver system technology (VST) for river management programme. According to Mr. Mohandas, vetiver (Chrysopogon zizanioides), better known by this perennial plant’s Malayalam name ‘Ramacham’ has been chosen for the purpose as it prevents soil erosion and helps in eliminating natural disasters such as landslides and mudslides.

Native to India, vetiver can withstand extreme alkalinity. This plant, though mainly used for perfumery, can also

help improve soil fertility and facilitate groundwater recharge. According to studies, vetiver has high tolerance to drought and floods, as well as heavy metals. It can grow in even saline conditions, and can withstand flooding for long periods. Its strong roots have tolerance to insects and plant diseases. Vetiver can form a hedge in rows and can be effective in preventing soil erosion, said Mr. Mohandas.

K.T. Jaleel, MLA, presided. K. Shaukathali, joint programme coordinator of Mahatama Gandhi Rural Employment Programme, presented a report. Mr. Mohandas welcomed the gathering.