(Palakkad): Apprehensions about drought-related deaths loom large over Attappady in Palakkad with the rain shadow region recording 90 per cent deficit rain during the just-concluded southwest monsoon. Meteorologists have predicted that there would not be much rain in the region, which comprises 192 tribal settlements, even during the ensuing northwest monsoon.
The perennial rivers Bhavani and Siruvani are a trickle now, much ahead of the summer months. The Kodukarampallam river has dried up. The heatwave in the region has affected the cultivation of pulses and millets in Mulli, Kottathara, Sholayoor and Kadampara. Most tribal settlements face acute scarcity of drinking water.
K.A. Ramu, tribal activist, said there was a similar drought situation in 1980 when many people perished to the scorching heat. “Drinking water is our main concern. Remote hamlets face extreme scarcity of safe drinking water,” said Mr. Ramu, who works with a tribal voluntary organisation, Thambu.
According to local resident Thomas Xavier, the eastern parts of Attappady were the worst affected. Massive deforestation in the region over the last two decades had led to gradual desertification of Attappady, he said.
Social activist Rajendra Prasad said besides infant mortality and neo-natal deaths, the region was now paying the price for environmental degradation caused by non-tribal settlers.
Hydrologist G.I. Shaju confirmed that most wells in eastern Attappady had turned dry. In others, the water level had depleted alarmingly.
Environmental activists said the much-hyped Japan-aided eco-restoration activities initiated under the Attappady Hill Area Development Society (AHADS) in 1996 at an expenditure of Rs. 219 crore had now turned a huge waste because of the drought- like situation. The Health Department has already initiated steps to ensure drinking water supply using trucks in the tribal settlements of Attappady.