KERALA

Degradation of floodplain wetland poses threat to Pampa

Blocked passage:A view of the heavily weeded Varalchal at Koipram, near Aranmula.—Photo: Leju Kamal

Blocked passage:A view of the heavily weeded Varalchal at Koipram, near Aranmula.—Photo: Leju Kamal  

: Degradation of the floodplain wetland in the Pampa river basin Varalchal at Koipram, near Aranmula, is posing serious ecological problems to the Pampa.

Varalchal is heavily weeded and silted, leaving its immediate surroundings with not less than 2,000 households in the grip of acute water scarcity during summer months.

The 2.5-km-long, 150-metre-wide natural stream was known for its rich biodiversity, especially the inland fish species of Channa (`Varaal’ as is locally known).

A large number of fisherfolk families whose main source of income was from fishing in Varalchal are now in dire straits, with the wetland and the stream having been covered with thickets of grass and exotic weeds like cabomba, says N.K. Sukumaran Nair, general secretary of the Pampa Parirakshana Samiti, who has been campaigning for the conservation of the Pampa, its tributaries and the floodplain reaches. Mr. Nair attributes the situation at Varalchal to the lowering of the Pampa riverbed owing to indiscriminate sand quarrying over the past few decades.

Lowering of the Pampa riverbed has left Varalchal more or less delinked from the Pampa, except during floods.

Life support system

The eco group leader says wetlands are the most productive life support system in the world and are of immense socio-economic and ecological value.

They are vital to maintaining the biodiversity as well as groundwater table in the region.

It is high time that the government and local bodies took appropriate measures to rejuvenate the Varalchal, he said.

Mr. Nair mooted the preparation of a joint action plan for Varalchal rejuvenation, which could be implemented by effectively utilising existing schemes like Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Generation Scheme, Integrated Water Resource Development Plan, Green India Mission, etc., ensuring active public participation.

Efforts should be taken for immediate restoration of the natural ability of the wetland to detoxify wastes, control floods, restore soil fertility, expunge weeds, purge pollutants, and to destroy various disease-causing organisms, besides supporting its diverse aquatic and bird life.

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