As waste goes out, a dying river returns to life

Water worldThe Kuttamperoor river, a tributary of the Pampa and Achenkovil.Special Arrangement  

It’s a rebirth for the Kuttamperoor river, a tributary of Pampa and Achencoil rivers. The river, a natural inter-connecting reverine system, is getting a new lease of life thanks to a drive for removing the accumulated waste.

A stretch of about 5 km of the river, flowing along the Budhanoor panchayat in Alappuzha district, has been cleaned up. Thick layers of water weeds and waste dumped into the river for more than a decade were removed. A scheme for cleaning up of the river, about 12-km long, had been drawn up several years ago, but could not be taken up due to lack of proper funding. “The project was implemented under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. About 200 workers were engaged for the work during a two-month period, generating 30,000 man days. An amount of Rs.72 lakh was spent on the project,” P. Viswambhara Panicker, Budhanoor panchayat president, told The Hindu .

“Waste materials such as plastic bottles and containers and food refuse dumped by unscrupulous catering units had turned the river into a watery grave for flora and fauna. Once the natural flow was obstructed, the polluted water infiltrated into drinking water resources, including wells along the river, rendering the water non-potable. Wells had dried up in many adjoining areas,” Mr. Panicker said.

Shrunk in width

Redeeming the entire river should be an ongoing mission that could be achieved by the joint efforts of neighbouring panchayats such as Mannar and Pandanad, said N.K. Sukumaran Nair, environmentalist and general secretary of Pampa Parirakshana Samiti. “The river, which had a width of 100-130 ft in its heyday, has shrunk to 10-15 ft at many locations owing to encroachment. Stern measures are required to evict the encroachers to help regain the lost glory of the river,” he says.

The river used to play a key role in flood control in the area. Whenever the Pampa and Achencoil were in spate, the water flowed into the Kuttamperoor river, saving a large area from getting flooded. The cleansing operation also led to a new phase of growth for freshwater fish.