KERALA

People’s protest mounting over drinking water shortage in Palakkad district

G. Prabhakaran

Unregulated sand-mining has resulted in drying up of the Bharathapuzha



Stoppage of supply by Tamil Nadu has added to the woes

Wells dug up on the river course



PALAKKAD: Drying up of the Bharathapuzha, the main source of drinking and irrigation water, has led to water shortage in many parts of Palakkad district. With depletion in the groundwater level, wells, ponds and small streams too have dried up. Unregulated sand-mining has formed firm earthen banks and beds with wild growth, which could lead to virtual death of the river.

The stoppage of supply of water by Tamil Nadu to Chitturpuzha under the inter-State Parambikulam Aliyar Project (PAP) in March-end has compounded the problem. When the PAP agreement was signed in 1970 with retrospective effect from 1958, the minimum environmental flow of the river was not ensured. The agreement allowed only 7.25 tmc ft. water annually to Chitturpuzha for paddy cultivation.

The Kerala Water Authority (KWA) has abandoned many wells on the riverbanks that were used to ensure supply of drinking water. At some places, new wells have been dug up right on the river course.

Unregulated sand-mining has triggered protests from the local people in several parts of the district. In Shoranur and Pattambi areas, hundreds of trucks wait on the river course to load sand in violation of all rules.

The war on water has already begun in different parts of the district. In Koduvayur, the people picketed the panchayat office on Wednesday seeking measures to solve the drinking water problem.

K. Achuthan, Chittur MLA (Congress), along with a group of his party supporters, opened the shutters of the Puzhappalam check-dam on Wednesday to ensure water supply to Peruvembu panchayat, allegedly without the permission of the KWA. The KWA officials plugged the check-dam on Thursday.

K. Jayachandran, assistant executive engineer of Chittur, told The Hindu that if water was let out from the check-dam, it would affect the two major projects of the Chittur-Thathamangalam urban water supply scheme and the Koduvayur-Pudunagaram water supply scheme. He said the water supply scheme of Koduvayur was implemented by the panchayat with water sources locally.

Mr. Achuthan told The Hindu: “I let out water from the Puzhapalam check-dam for the Peruvambu drinking water scheme, as its water source had dried up.” The check-dam was constructed with an allotment of Rs.25 lakh from the MLA fund to provide drinking water in the Chittur-Thatamangalam municipality and the adjoining areas, he said.

“Letting out water for use at Peruvambu, nearly 1.5 km downstream of the river, will not affect the drinking water supply to the municipality. Moreover, there is enough water at the Kunnamkattupathy mini-dam for the Chittur municipality,” he said.

Poll campaign

“In the Lok Sabha election campaign, the people of Peruvambu had demanded water from the Puzhalpalam check- dam. My action was only to help the people of Peruvambu to get drinking water,” Mr. Achuthan said.

In the Plachimada and Mulathara areas of Chittur taluk, drinking water is supplied in tanker lorries.

While water shortage is reported in the district every summer, the master plan for drought mitigation prepared in 2004 is gathering dust at the Collectorate.

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