Well recharging programme has many takers in coastal panchayats in Thrissur

Novel initiative: District Collector V.K. Baby visits one of the recharged wells at V.P. Thuruthu in Kodunaglloor Block on Tuesday.   | Photo Credit: —Photo: Special Arrangement

Staff Reporter

The project utilises rainwater to recharge open wells

Kodungalloor: A silent water revolution is sweeping the coastal panchayats in Thrissur district. Mazhapolima, a community-driven open well recharging programme using rainwater, has proved a cost-effective solution for the water crisis in the coastal panchayats of Methala, Eriad and Edavilangu in Kodungalloor Block, an area where over exploitation of groundwater was rampant.

The project that utilises the rainwater falling on rooftops of houses to recharge open wells has vastly improved fresh water availability in these panchayats.

It is being implemented with a Rs.40 lakh State government aid in Kodunaglloor Block. “Water shortage was severe in my ward. Wells supplied only turbid, saline water. People had to travel at least 3 km to Muthakunnam to fetch potable water. Life became

tougher as we had to hire boats to bring water in pots. Each family had to shell out Rs.50-100 per week. Water-borne diseases became a

regular affair,” said A. B. Sasidharan, ward member of V. P. Thuruthu of Methala Panchayat, an island located close to the confluence of Periyar river with the Arabian Sea.

Loss of natural water recharge mechanisms, unscientific construction of roads and buildings and loss of traditional practices of bund

construction at canal mouth to prevent saline water intrusion were the major reasons for the water crisis in coastal areas. The elders recalled there existed 96 cross canal streams in the V.P. Thuruthu with eight openings to the Periyar. Most of the canals were broken and many were reclaimed.

Mr. Sasidharan said that in the past the panchyat had to spend Rs.2 lakh every year to supply water in tanker lorries to V. P. Thuruthu. It was at this time the concept of Mazhapolima was introduced at the panchyat. Sunny George, consultant at Kottappuram Integrated Development Society (KIDS), the implementing agency of the project, recalled that there was initial resistance to the project as the people had apprehensions about purity of rainwater collected from the roofs.

Continuous awareness programmes were needed to convince the public. Now all open wells in the ward had been recharged with rainwater.

“This year, no tanker lorry had to be used to supply water. We had enough water in our wells,” Mr. Sasidharan said.

Jos C. Raphael, operations manager of ‘Mazhapolima’ project, noted that V.P. Thururthu being an area with a high water table with serious salinity intrusion, the only way out was to adopt methods to improve surface water sources.

For this fresh rainwater was injected to the ponds and wells.“Injection of rainwater into wells in an area not only creates a fresh water zone but it also resists the intrusion of saline water from the sea,” he noted.

Meeru Nabeesa, a resident of the area, noted that water in her well was now clear and that salinity was low. Ms. Nabeesa recalled that she used to filter the water to reduce the turbidity even for washing clothes. District Collector V. K. Baby said 1964 open wells had been recharged in Methala, Eriad and Edavilangu panchayats under the ‘Mazhapolima’ project. In all, 2,536 wells were recharged in the district.

“The district spends lakhs of rupees every year for distributing water in tankers when many of its 4.5 lakh open wells were being left unused.” Recharging wells using roof water did not involve any complicated process, Mr. Baby noted. “We need only a pipe to direct water to the well. In tiled roofs, an additional polythene sheet will also be needed to collect water,” he added.