A nearly dead natural stream in Kerala has been nursed back to life by a District Collector, who believes that “there is a stream flowing through everyone’s life.”
No one imagined that Karimaramthodu, which at one time flowed vigorously around the paddy fields of Aranmula Puncha, could be salvaged after it was filled up for a private airport project.
Their fears were confirmed when even a High Court order for the restoration of the stream was not received enthusiastically by the State government. All that changed when R. Girija, the District Collector of Pathanamthitta took over on August 22, 2016, and got the earth movers working. The 55-year old officer quickly worked out a ‘swap’ with official agencies. Under the deal, the Kerala State Transport Project, Railways, and the Kerala Water Authority could take the earth excavated from 1.8 hectares of the blocked stream, and use it for their projects.
Aranmula is well known for a Vaishnavite shrine, the Sree Parthasarathy temple. It is also famous for its snakeboat regatta and for mirrors crafted out of metal, the Aranmula Kannadi.
The airport proposal initially boosted the villagers’ hopes of commercial development, allowing the Karimaramthodu to be filled-in 13 years ago.
But V. Mohanan, a 60-year old farmer was not convinced. He moved the High Court, resulting in a direction to the government to implement an order of 2012 to restore the stream. The Court said in 2014 that the Collector should do the job within a month.
The work launched on June 29, 2015, however, was frequently stopped, to avoid the displeasure of the State government of the time.
There were also protests by an all-party action council, comprising the CPI(M), the CPI, the BJP, and the Congress against the airport project, which did not get environmental and civil aviation approvals.
A determined District Collector then entered the scene and the villagers were enthusiastic.
The ‘swap’ forged by Ms. Girija provided 44,000 tonnes of earth from Karimaramthodu, fetching royalty revenue of ₹8.8 lakh. The restoration work ended a week ago.