The Irrigation Department has completed the deepening and widening of the Thottappally estuary.
Arun K. Jacob, executive engineer, Irrigation Division, Alappuzha said on Saturday that the work was finished in 59 days.
Apart from deepening the estuary, the width of the estuary mouth was increased to 360 metres by removing sand. Earlier the estuary mouth had a width of 190 metres.
The work in the downstream of the Thottappally spillway was carried out to ensure the smooth flow of floodwaters from Kuttanad to the sea.
A narrow sandbar
Now, a narrow sandbar separates the channel and sea. The sandbar would be removed only when the need to drain excess water arose, the official said.
Water Resources Minister K. Krishnankutty, who visited Thottappally on Thursday, congratulated Irrigation Department officials for completing the work way ahead of the schedule.
In May, as part of widening and deepening of the ‘pozhi,’ around 550 trees on a plot in the possession of the Irrigation Department close to the pozhi had been cut down by invoking various sections under the Disaster Management Act.
The government further allowed the Kerala Minerals and Metals Ltd (KMML) to remove mineral-rich sand from the pozhi and from the place where the trees stood. This led to massive protests. Local residents, especially fisherfolk, alleged that the government’s move was aimed at large-scale extraction of mineral sand under the disguise of flood mitigation.
High Court order
Although the residents were not against sand removal from the pozhi, which was an annual process to ensure the flow of floodwaters into the sea, they vigorously opposed the transportation of mineral sand to KMML’s unit at Chavara.
On June 17, the High Court passed an interim order directing the KMML to comply with the stop memo issued by the Purakkad grama panchayat against the transportation of sand. However, the court lifted the ban two days later.
The protest was suspended recently after the KMML temporarily stopped transportation of sand in view of the COVID-19 situation.
The Irrigation Department is also dredging the 11-km-long leading channel (upstream) of the spillway, for which the work has been awarded to a separate contractor.