Bharathapuzha is dry much ahead of summer

The Bharathapuzha has turned into a trickle months ahead of the peak summer season, raising disturbing questions regarding the drinking water and irrigation needs of people living in 175 grama panchayats and a dozen municipalities located in Palakkad, Malappuram and Thrissur districts. The catchment areas of the second-largest river of the State received 30 per cent less rainfall during this monsoon, leaving all the reservoirs in the basin less than full. Unlike in the previous years, pumping from the river at Ottappalam, Shoranur, Vaniyamkulam, Ambalapra and Lakkidi remains largely affected owing to shortage in rainfall.

Worst affected

Ottappalam and Shoranur municipal areas are the worst affected and the authorities are planning to begin supply of drinking water in tankers by the beginning of October. Even during last season, tankers were pressed into service only during peak summer season.

Almost all streams that spill into the Malampuzha reservoir started drying up last week.

“This time, the river is likely to dry much ahead of the summer. In most areas, the river looks covered with shrubs and weeds and no water flow is visible,’’ said environmentalist and river protection activist P.S. Panicker.

The river also faces extreme pollution and contamination in town areas such as Pattambi and Ottappalam owing to dumping of garbage. Water samples collected from near Velliyamkallu regulator close to Thrithala recently contained huge numbers of coli form bacteria.

“The authorities concerned have done nothing to plug the drainages discharging liquid waste directly to the river. No steps have been initiated to evict encroachments on the riverbanks,” said E. Gopikrishnan, a social activist.

“The government had earlier promised to constitute a River Board to save the dying river. Though the expert committee appointed by the State government had recommended the creation of a Bharathapuzha River Authority (BDA), no steps have been taken by the government to constitute it so far,” says Mr Panicker.

``Most parts of the 209-km-long river are covered with shrubs and weeds and look more like an unkempt ground than a waterbody. During monsoon, the river gets filled up but soon it goes dry again. This is because the annual average water discharge through the river is simply allowed to flow into the Arabian Sea,” said Mr. Gopikrishnan.

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