Varattar revival at a crossroads

Greens apprehensive about launching construction along river banks

Published - August 03, 2018 10:41 pm IST - PATHANAMTHITTA

The rejuvenation of the 9-km-long Varattar river that meanders through the three grama panchayats of Eraviperoor, Kuttoor, and Thiruvanvandoor and the Chengannur municipality has reached a crossroads with experts raising concern about the move to launch construction work along the river banks before carrying out a proper environment impact assessment or even fixing the river boundaries.

The rejuvenation programme began under the Harita Keralam Mission with Finance Minister T.M. Thomas Isaac and Water Resources Minister Mathew T. Thomas leading a River Walk along the Varattar riverbed on May 29, 2017.

Two unscientific causeways constructed on the riverbed were demolished to facilitate free flow of river in the first phase.

The Finance Minister had stated that the Varattar river banks would be converted into a ‘biodiversity zone.’

He said a five-metre-wide footpath would be constructed on both banks of the river, after recovering the river poromboke.

Trees would be grown along the river banks from its origin at Vanchippottil-kadavu to Valathode in Alappuzha district where it merges with the Manimala river, he said.

Dr. Isaac said three bridges would be constructed across the Varattar and all the small rivulets leading to the river would be rejuvenated.

Boundary demarcation

Though the District Collectors of Alappuzha and Pathanamthitta were directed to demarcate the original boundaries of the Varattar in August 2017, the process is yet to be completed. The mandatory environment impact study too is yet to be completed in the river basin.

What offends the eco groups is the haste on the part of the government and the committee to launch the construction works along the river banks even before demarcating the river boundaries.

Pampa Parirakshana Samiti general secretary N.K. Sukumaran Nair, Manimalayar Protection Council general secretary V.N. Gopinathan Pillai, and environmentalist and botanist Thomas P. Thomas, have all expressed serious concern over the move to construct the footpath along the Varatter before the boundary demarcation and completion of EIA.

Mr. Nair said lowering of the Varattar riverbed to that of the Pampa would be necessary to facilitate free flow of the Pampa waters into it.

However, Mr. Nair said deepening of the Varattar riverbed would prove to be an environmental misadventure as it would lead to drying up of all wells in the river basin. A proper hydrological study should also be conducted in the Varatter river basin, he said.

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