Today, the Vetubali pond at Mudavapara in Pallichal panchayat, with water filled to the brim and offering seasonal recreational boating services, stands as a symbol of pride for the village.
Months ago, the same pond and the surrounding areas were a haven for anti-social elements. On the banks of the three-acre pond, previously a dumping yard of alcohol bottles, beautifully painted benches and mini-lampposts affixed with FM radios welcome visitors for a relaxed evening.
More importantly, the pond is becoming the lifeline for families in the surrounding areas, who have reported considerable increase in the ground water level in their wells, at a time when the district is declared drought-hit. All it took for this noticeable change was the Rs.5-lakh lift-irrigation project that the village panchayat took up under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee scheme (MGNREGS).
MGNREGS Accredited Engineer C. Gopinathan said the idea was to lift water from the feeder canal connecting the Neyyar dam to the main delivery chamber that feeds the pond. By building an underground pipeline connecting the two areas, the water is pumped to the pond.
Going one step ahead, the villagers started to harvest rainwater and prevent soil erosion by spreading ‘coir mats’ along the slanting banks of the pond. Mr. Gopinathan said these mats, which are made of biodegradable coconut coir fibre, are fixed to the ground using specially made bamboo pins. With the help of the MGNREGS workers, grass tufts were planted along these slopes so that there is maximum vegetation to stabilise the ecosystem.
C. Shine, a regular visitor, said that since the implementation of the project, the water level in the pond remained constant and many wells in the nearby areas had reported a good recharge rate.
In more ponds
The success of this project has encouraged the officials to revive five more ponds in the panchayat this year.
“The district has already been declared drought-affected. There is an urgent need to take care of our existing waster resources such as the ponds and the lakes to address drinking water scarcity. In addition, the water from such renovated ponds will be used for irrigation purposes,” panchayat president K. Rajesh told the Hindu .
In the coming summer months, ponds such as Pallarakulam, Katukulam, Irattakulam,Chirakulam, and Chitikodekulam will too be renovated.