Tracing Kerala’s 44 rivers, from the source to the mouth

It was during a trip to fix plans to rejuvenate the Bharathapuzha in 2006 that Smart Kundassery found how less we know of Kerala’s riverine systems. The researcher at the Department of Atmospheric Sciences, Cochin University of Science and Technology, Mr. Kundassery then enrolled to teach himself the nuances of GIS and then brought out a work, which was published in the Indian Cartographer in 2013. He then launched the RiverineGiS, a web-based geospatial map of all 44 rivers in Kerala, in 2014. This is a first initiative of its kind, though the interface is still evolving.

The RiverineGiS has been put within public domain athttp://orgin.inand it illustrates all rivers in the State from headwater sources up to the river mouth.

Mr. Kundassery, who took eight years to finish the work, says the interface will enhance public awareness, as it gives detailed information about the drainage and the eco-sensitive zones the river flowed through including that of sand-mining ghats of the much degraded Bharathapuzha.

On the need for such an interface, Mr. Kundassery says he found all available information documented but the literature remained bound inside volumes, with limited access to others, including activists. Also, even if it existed as geospatial content, it had restricted access.

Mr. Kundassery defines river literacy as the ability to appreciate the many functions of riverine ecosystem so as to initiate and embark on an informed process of river conservation, restoration and rejuvenation.

He says such literacy is not available for any river in the State. For instance, scientific literature suggests that the Periyar originates from the Sivagiri Hills.

But locating the Sivagiri Hills from existing web mapping domains, be it Google Maps, Wikimapia or even ISRO Bhuvan, is a very difficult task. Also, to know the geospatial locations of tributaries such as the Mullayar and the Periyar of the Mullaperiyar, much more rigorous exercise will be needed.

“Setting up the interface was not an easy task in the beginning because the first map was based on GeoServer.

“It was dropped at the final moment because it required more computing and hosting resources. Later we migrated to MapServer, though it still required $20 for a month of hosting,” Mr. Kundassery says.

Dynamic weather map

Overlay of a dynamic weather map over RiverineGiS interface allows the possibility of monitoring formation of severe weather phenomena. to take appropriate safety measures to avert human and property loss. It also enables forecasting of meteorological conditions prevailing in the catchment areas of a river basin. Thus, RiverineGiS could be used simultaneously for educational and planning purposes.

Our code of editorial values