Special Correspondent

Thiruvananthapuram: The Government has launched a project to clean up the polluted Parvathy Puthanar canal and the downstream areas of Karamana River. An amount of Rs.4 crore has been earmarked for the project, which involves dredging and opening up the sandbar to let out the polluted water from the canal.

The operation was launched at the Cheriyamuttam coast in Poonthura on Wednesday under the programme to revive the Kovalam-Kollam section of the National Waterway. The Irrigation department is using mechanised equipment to cut open the sandbar. Revenue Minister K.P. Rajendran visited the coastal areas to witness the launch of the project.

Residents of the Edayar island and the mainland at Thiruvallam pointed out that coastal erosion and the heavy pollution of the canal had made life miserable for them. The contamination of the scenic backwaters poses a threat to the nascent tourism industry in the area. It also raises a serious public health hazard for hundreds of families and the pilgrims visiting the Parasurama shrine at Thiruvallam to offer the Bali ritual.

Karamana River, flowing through the city, joins Killi River at Pallathukadavu, upstream of Thiruvallam, and wraps around the Edayar Island on its way to the Poonthura estuary. Both the rivers carry large quantities of raw sewage discharged from city drains. The heavily polluted Parvathy Puthanar canal joins the river at Munnattumukku near the Poonthura coastal village.

The flow of water on the western side of the island is blocked due to heavy silting at

Munnattumukku and accretion of sea sand at Kunnumanal.

During high tide, seawater from the estuary surges up to Thiruvallam through the eastern side of Edayar. When the tide ebbs, the dirty water from the Parvathy Puthanar rushes in, covering even the upstream portions up to Thiruvallam and beyond. Local people and environmental bodies believe that the problem could be eliminated by dredging the waters on the western side of the Edayar Island to facilitate tidal flushing. They point out that saline ingression would also destroy water weeds and germs. There have been demands to construct a retention wall at Moonnattumukku to stop further sediment transport inland. Nemom ward councillor G.R. Anil however said a permanent solution to the pollution caused by the canal would have to address the concerns of the fishermen who use the beach to launch their fishing craft. "Building a retention wall may deprive the fishermen of direct access to the sea. One of the alternate solutions is to provide a bypass channel to drain out the water from the canal to the sea. The project can be taken up with tsunami funds from the Government," he said. Mr. Anil said the proposal would be presented at a meeting convened by the Government on April 18 to discuss city development projects.