The summer is only approaching yet. But water level in wells in most parts of the region has dipped and the flow in major rivers, including the Chaliyar, Kadalundipuzha and Mayyazhipuzha, and their tributaries has come down drastically. The water in most of the rivers in the region is highly polluted too.
If urgent steps are not taken to save our rivers, which are the lifeline of the region, what awaits will be a crisis serious and far-reaching, warn experts and environmentalists.
The efforts to protect the rivers should begin from their catchment area itself, says environmentalist and social activist A. Achyuthan. The catchment areas, according to him, should be considered as watersheds and protected by initiating various measures such as contour bunding, terracing and mulching.
“Strict enforcement of law against waste-dumping and indiscriminate sand-mining is another crucial area,” says Dr. Achyuthan. “We seem to need a major disaster to learn even the basic things. That attitude must change,” he says.
Resuming the use of rivers for bathing is a practical way to protect them, says Babu Parambath, green activist. According to him, active water fronts (kadavu) should be opened at every ward so that people will begin to use them and will want to keep them clean. “Once they start using them, as we experimented in the Poonur Puzha here, people will also start taking care of them without dumping waste or encroaching upon them,” says Mr. Babu, who feels that sensitising and mobilising residents’ associations to the cause can make a huge difference.
Baiju Chandran, member of an NGO working for green causes, says most people do not know that to protect river means to protect the earth itself. Mindless deforestation in the catchment area, dumping of industrial and plastic waste and ecologically insensitive constructions are some of the major threats faced by rivers.“We already have a 40 per cent fall in north-eastern monsoon this year, which is going to seriously affect the drinking water situation here,” says A.B. Anitha, scientist and head, Surface Water Department, Centre for Water Resources Development and Management. “If our people and government are not waking up to the urgent need for purging and safeguarding our precious, and once pure, rivers, the consequences will be fatal and far-reaching,” says Dr. Anitha.