Dead fish and films of oil now float in the city’s rivers. While the fish kill occurred in the Muttarpuzha (a tributary of the Periyar) near the Manjummel regulator-cum-bridge over the last two days, reddish layers of oil have been found in the Periyar over the last three days near the Pathalam regulator-cum-bridge in Eloor in the city.
Apart from the oil films, it has been a week since the colour of the Periyar on this stretch changed to brown, claim local activists.
“Though we alerted the Pollution Control Board, all they did was take samples from the water,” says Iqbal Paristhi, an activist with Janajagratha. “They did that the last time the water turned brown, but they have not told us the results of those tests yet.”
According to locals, the release of effluents into the river from the surrounding industries is the cause of the change in colour and the oil films that have appeared. The effects of the pollution can be felt downstream too, say fishermen from Varapuzha and Kadamakkudy.
“If affects fish cultivation downstream in Kadamakkudy,” says Anilkumar B.B., a fisherman who also runs a shrimp farm in Kadamakkudy. “At such times, thirutha [mullets] fish taste of DDT and they cannot be eaten,” he adds.
The change in the water quality over the last week has prompted fishermen allied with the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) to demand that government authorities look into the matter immediately.
“The fishermen are slowly inching back to normal life after the floods,” says C.N. Saneesh, a member of the Varapuzha BMS committee. “But now our livelihoods are at stake again. We want the Fisheries Department to look into this problem too.”
Fish kill in the Muttarpuzha near Manjummel has been happening over the last two days, say residents. On the afternoon of December 19 too, remnants of sunken dead fish could be spotted on the shallow river bed and dead shrimp lay on the banks. A day ago, a faint film of oil was also present on the river, says Rony Varghese, a Class IX student who lives nearby.
“Fish kills are a common sight here,” says Sebastian A.J., a resident. “Many people spear the floating fish and sell them in the market.”
The fish kills are primarily due to the stagnation of the river, says engineer B. Sreeelakshmi of the State Pollution Control Board at Eloor. The lack of river flow combined with increased pumping out of water from the river for human use can cause effluent discharges to be concentrated and hence, cause fish kills, she adds.
“As organic content in the water increases, oxygen decreases and causes the fish kill,” she says. “We have taken several samples across the river to study this and the oil layers. Our preliminary analysis suggests that the oil came from somewhere upstream. We are also compiling a detailed report on these issues along with an action plan suggesting how to rectify these problems.”