Pazhayar, the lifeline of Kanyakumari district, has lost its pristine glory owing to renovation work not having been carried out in the river for the past several years. The river is polluted and encroached, and the check-dams along with sluices are damaged in many parts owing to negligence by the authorities concerned.
The early Kings of Venad were conscious of the potential of Pazhayar which originates from the forested area of Surulacode, carries small streams from Mahendragiri peak and flows through Thovalai and Agastheeswaram taluks. The total length of the river is about 37 km and it passes through Boothapandi, Thazakudi, Putheri, Nagercoil, and Suchindrum and finally joins with the Manakudi Kayal.
The early kings also constructed about 11 check-dams along the course of the river. A Venad ruler, Boothala Sree Veera Udaya Marthandavarma, who ruled this area in 1517, constructed the Veerapuli dam and its canals. But, unfortunately, the dam was destroyed by a flood 40 years ago. A bridge has come in its place.
The then rulers also constructed ‘Kutty' dam, Palikondan dam, Chattuputhur dam, Veeranarayanam dam, Sabari dam, Kumari dam, Cholan Kattar dam, Pillaipethan dam, and Mission dam. All these dams have well-developed canal systems that irrigated the surrounding areas.
A recent study on status of these check-dams carried out by Conservation of Nature Trust, a non-governmental organisation, with help from Forest Department, presented a dismal picture of this water body. Most of the dams were in a damaged state and left to the mercy of nature. The sluices remain rusted. The sluices of Sabari dam, Kumari Anai, Cholanthittai Anai, and Pillaipethan dam are in a dilapidated condition, says R.S. Lal Mohan, chairman of the NGO. He says all the canals are silted and encroached upon and hence require urgent attention.
When this sorry state of the dams was brought to the knowledge of the Public Works Department officials, they pleaded fund constraints, saying the work may require Rs. 20 crore.
The main reason for this sorry state of affairs is a lack of awareness among the people about the utility value of these check-dams. Some of the dams such as Kumari and Sabari dams are carpeted with hyacinth and other aquatic weeds degrading the water further. The river has been encroached in places such as Ozhuginaserryand Putheri.
Another major problem faced by the Pazhayar is pollution. Though the river water is free from pollution from Surulacode to Putheri, the stretch from Putheri to Suchindrum is highly polluted. Sewage from Putheri and Nagercoil also flows into the river. The sewage (household sewage, solid waste and liquid waste from hospitals) from Putheri area drain into the river at Putheri and sewage from Nagercoil is let into the river between Vadaserry - - Ozhuginaserry - Edalakudi, says president of Water Resource Protection Association A.Vins Anto
According to the Environmental Protection Act, 1986, sewage should not be let into public water bodies. But this Act is not followed by the Nagercoil municipality and Putheri panchayat. The Pazhayar off Nagercoil has 3,000 units of pathogenic bacteria of echeriacoli. As per international standards, only 3 units of e-coli are permissible in river where people take bath. Forty years ago, one could see hundreds of people taking bath in Vadiweeswaram bathing ghat. The same spot now looks like a cesspool of sewage water with solid waste like plastic floating on it.
Farmers want the government to take immediate steps on a war-footing by allotting adequate funds to protect the lifeline of Kanyakumari district not only for the present generation but for the future generation as well, says Mr. Anto.