When collective effort helped bring Conolly Canal back to life

Regaining lost glory: A view of the cleaned up Conolly Canal near Sarovaram Biopark in Kozhikode; a polluted portion of the canal near Kundupparambu; and dredging in progress in the canal. The work is being carried out at a cost of ₹46 lakh

Regaining lost glory: A view of the cleaned up Conolly Canal near Sarovaram Biopark in Kozhikode; a polluted portion of the canal near Kundupparambu; and dredging in progress in the canal. The work is being carried out at a cost of ₹46 lakh  

Massive clean-up of waterbody, inspired by a Facebook post, saw unprecedented participation of people from all walks of life

It has been more than a week since dredging started at the mouth of the Conolly Canal in Kozhikode, where it meets the Kallai river. On the first day, quite a crowd had gathered at Kallai to watch machines at work, for they have been anticipating this for at least a decade. Moreover, it rekindled the hope that water in the canal will finally be able to flow freely.

In fact, a year ago, most people had lost hope on the future of Conolly Canal, the once major waterway of the city, which had been reduced to a waste dump. The turning point was the floods in mid-August 2018 when the canal was filled to its brim inundating roads and residential areas in many parts of the city. It was a wake-up call and the result was ‘Operation Conolly Canal.’

FB post

It was a casual comment by Babu Parambath, the project coordinator of Niravu Vengeri, a waste management company based in Kozhikode, on his Facebook page a few days after Onam, when the State was still limping back to normalcy after the floods, that changed the fate of the canal.

“We are going to clean up Conolly Canal. Who is with us?” Babu Parambath asked. The then District Collector U.V. Jose was the first to respond with a thumbs-up sign and many others followed. The following days saw thousands of volunteers from all walks of life, including government employees, residents’ organisations, voluntary organisations, student bodies, merchants and differently abled people, joining hands for a comprehensive cleaning of the canal. There were no committees or office-bearers or colourful openings, just dedicated volunteers, while the government played only a supporting role without spending a single penny.

“After the floods, people were ready to do anything and it was the right time to turn the disaster into an opportunity,” said Babu Parambath, whose coordination skills played a major role in the success of the operation. A team of 50 trained volunteers of Niravu led the drive. Fifteen days later, as the first phase of the project came to an end, 2,513 bags of non-biodegradable waste was removed from the canal.

New culture

The responsibility of the upkeep of the canal was then entrusted with various agencies. “With so many people being part of it directly or indirectly, there is much lesser chance of the canal going back to its previous state, for no one would want to pollute something that they had worked hard to clean up. This is the best way to nurture a waste management culture,” Mr. Babu said.

In the second phase of the drive, the canal was divided into eight sectors and the upkeep was entrusted on 17 sector committees led by 17 councillors of the Kozhikode Corporation representing different political parties. Meanwhile, the Centre for Water Resources Development and Management conducted timely quality checks on the water of the canal to give pointers to purify it.

Polls put a damper

However, after a few months, the upkeep did not seem to go well, with the water once again covered by plants. Though a few drains that opened into the canal were blocked, water in many parts continued to be black and polluted. The declaration of Lok Sabha elections in March put a damper on efforts to keep the canal clean.

However, the Kozhikode Corporation resumed the task earlier this month with a massive clean-up drive. The canal being part of the third phase of the National Waterway project helped expedite matters.

Major hurdle

Silt accumulation at the mouth of the canal closer to Kallai river has been cited as a major hurdle to the free flow of water, so dredging is being carried out at a cost of ₹46 lakh.

A general clean-up drive to rid the canal of newly sprouted shrubs and water plants is also part of it.

“The project for the widening of the canal to 14 metres will be carried out soon so that it could be used for water transportation once again,” said K.V. Baburaj, Health Standing Committee Chairman of the Corporation.

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Printable version | Feb 23, 2020 2:01:37 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/kozhikode/when-collective-effort-helped-bring-conolly-canal-back-to-life/article27131521.ece

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