Staff Reporter

KOTTAYAM: Turning a new leaf in its extension activities, Mahatma Gandhi University has taken a definitive step in enhancing the mutuality of knowledge creation and its utility for society.

Achinakom villagers in Vechoor grama panchayat, who were resigned to a forced dependence on contaminated water consumption on account of the general degradation of the Kuttanad eco-system, got a 1.2-lakh litre sub-surface rainwater harvesting tank designed and constructed by the School of Environmental Sciences in association with Brown University, U.S., on Saturday.

It will cater to the needs of 22 families in the village.

Commissioning the tank, Vice-Chancellor Rajan Gurukkal expressed the hope that the initiative would act as a stimlus for the academia to come out with application of socially relevant knowledge. Mr. Gurukkal said that in the environmental perspective, the traditional knowledge base need to be considered while attempting solutions for issues like the one being faced in Kuttanand.

The age-old eco-system was lost in Kuttanand when it got isolated and its natural flushing system was interfered with, with the construction of the Thanneermukkom bund which was aimed at doubling the paddy production from the area, he said. However, it was the beginning of a vicious circle in which the water lost its brackishness along with the flora and fauna. This affected the availability and quality of food, even the availability of jobs connected with traditional life.

The Kuttanad experience stresses the need to evolve socially relevant solutions for the challenges, Mr. Gurukkal said.

M.R. Unni, registrar, MGU; A.P. Thomas, director, School of Environmental Sciences; Christina Tang, environmental scientist, Brown University; and others spoke.

Mr. Gurukkal also launched Rain Water for Humanity project on the occasion. The project envisages improving the community’s health, increasing households’ disposable income and lessening the work pressure on women and children.

As part of the scheme, the academia plans to construct 10 prototypes of low cost rainwater harvesting system with the help of village women who will be trained in the construction of these systems. The scheme, in a phased manner, will cover all the 145 households in the village soon.