For most tourists, a visit to the hill station at Munnar is not complete without a boat safari on the scenic Mattupetty reservoir. But very few of them are aware of the impact of boating on the environment and wildlife.
The Kerala State Biodiversity Board and the Forest department have raised the alarm about the pollution caused by motorised boats plying the reservoir and the litter left behind by tourists.
KSEB has sought steps to stop the motor boat service in the interests of the aquatic environment and biodiversity. In a letter to the Principal Secretary, Environment, the KSBB Chairman Oommen.V.Ooommen said the boats were polluting the reservoir with kerosene residue. This, he says, had deprived wildlife of a natural source of water.
Wild elephants frequently break into the dairy farm located near the reservoir to drink water from pipes. “They break open the pipes and also raid the fodder cultivated for the cows in the farm. We suspect this behaviour has something to do with the pollution of the lake,” says Dr. Jose James, Managing director, Kerala Livestock Development Board. KLDB incurs a heavy loss to repair the damage caused by elephants. “The animals avoid drinking from the reservoir because of the smell of kerosene”, says Prof.Oommen.
Located near the Munnar hill station, the Mattupetty dam and reservoir are major tourist attractions falling within the jurisdiction of the Kerala State Electricity Board. The place is a habitat for several species of animals and birds. The Hydel Tourism Society under KSEB and the Idukki District Tourism Promotion Council operate boat services on the reservoir.
“The residents of Munnar and tourists visiting the hill station are also exposed to the pollution risk because the storage tank of the Kerala Water Authority sources water from downstream of the reservoir”, observes Prof.Oommen.
District Forest Officer, Munnar K. J. Samuel said the introduction of motor boats for hydel tourism was a reckless move. “It is a small reservoir that does not justify the use of motor boats. Row boats or pedal boats would be a better option”, he said.
“The pollution caused by the boats could have grave consequences for the environment, wildlife and people in Munnar. We plan to send a report to senior officials after analyzing water samples collected from the reservoir,” Mr.Samuel said. The litter left behind by tourists was another major threat to the environment. KSEB Chief Engineer (Dam Safety), K. K. Karuppankutty said the board had an open mind. He said KSEB would stop the boat service on the reservoir if it was found to be polluting the water.