A portion of the Maradi branch canal, which is part of the Muvattupuzha Valley Irrigation Project (MVIP), near Pandappilly along the Muvattupuzha-Arakkuzha-Koothattukulam Link Road, collapsed on Sunday evening.
Gushing waters from the Malankara dam breached the canal wall at Mullapadi in Ward 9 of Aarakuzha panchayat around 5.30 p.m. A visual circulated widely on social media showed a car passing by a few seconds before the incident.
According to preliminary estimates of the Department of Irrigation, the breach extending to about 20 metres may have occurred owing to the poor strength of the canal wall. Senior officials admitted that the annual maintenance was long overdue owing to paucity of funds.
Interestingly, MVIP officials had inspected the canal site where the breach occurred an hour before the incident, ahead of letting water through the canal. But they could not find any leakage or cracks on the canal wall. The mud and debris following the breach flowed into the road halting traffic on the route. The entrance to a nearby house was also flooded. The police and fire and rescue services personnel were pressed into service, and the mud and water were cleared by 11 p.m.
Mathew Kuzhalnadan, Muvattupuzha MLA, blamed the Irrigation department for its failure to carry out regular maintenance of canals that are part of the MVIP project. Despite repeated pleas, the department authorities had neither cleared the overgrown bushes nor addressed other shortcomings in the canals. The Water Resources department has agreed to restore water flow by laying pipes along the affected region, he said.
Senior officials of the department said paucity of funds had hampered periodic maintenance of the canals. The panchayat, which used to clear bushes and thick vegetation along the canals under its rural employment guarantee scheme, was also not able to carry out the work owing to technical hurdles, they added.
Omana Mohanan, former president of Aarakuzha panchayat, said a similar breach had occurred along a canal under the MVIP at Muthukallu in Ward 13 of the panchayat in 2019. The Irrigation department should have carried out a proper trial run before releasing water through the canal, she said.