Kerala

Meenvallam waterfalls reduced to a trickle

Lost glory:The once majestic Meenvallam waterfalls... now a trickle after the commissioning of Palakkad district panchayat’s hydel power project.— Photo: K..K. Mustafah  

Though the Palakkad district panchayat enjoys the reputation of being the first local body in India to build and successfully operate a mini-hydroelectric project, its Meenvallam project in the Bharathapuzha river basin has caused the near complete disappearance of the once majestic waterfalls.

One of the major tourism attractions in the district with a soothing microclimate, Meenvallam’s celebrated waterfalls have turned into a trickle of late though the rainy season is not yet over.

Visitors, inspired by the ecotourism initiatives of Kerala Tourism, reach Meenvallam, located in the Thuppanad forest region, and returned without seeing the waterfalls. It has been a year since the panchayat commissioned the project.

More on the anvil

“It seems that the district panchayat is planning three mini and one micro hydroelectric projects after being inspired by the success of Meenvallam. The project was implemented, ignoring warnings that it would sound the death knell of the waterfalls. It is feared that the next four projects will kill the traditional waterfalls of the district, apart from affecting the environmental balance,” says P.S. Panicker of Jana Jagratha, an environmental organisation.

“When I prepared the environmental impact study of the Meenvallam project, I specifically mentioned that it would cause the death of the waterfalls apart from causing widespread environmental problems. But the prevailing mood was in favour of Chinese model power projects and even certain popular science movements came out in open support of the project. Now my anxieties are getting vindicated,” says A. Biju Kumar, head of the department of aquatic biology at Kerala University.

Located 8 km deep inside the forests from Thuppanad Junction on the Palakkad-Manarkkad route, the waterfalls are nearly 20 to 25 feet high and the depth is around 15 to 20 feet. There are ten steps of the waterfalls, of which eight are situated in the upper hills inside the dense forest. Visitors are required to hire jeeps from Koomankund Junction and then trek a distance of 1.5 km by crossing the Thuppanad river. The ten-step waterfalls with the height of each step varying from five to 40 metres provided a visual treat to the beholder. The forests surrounding the waterfalls are an extension of the Silent Valley National Park.

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Printable version | Apr 23, 2021 1:39:03 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/meenvallam-waterfalls-reduced-to-a-trickle/article7714666.ece

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