KERALA

A requiem to the Kunthipuzha

A view of a stream of the Kunthipuzha, which is one of the tributaries of the Thuthapuzha and flows through the Silent Valley National Park, near Mannarkad.— Photo: K.K. Mustafah

A view of a stream of the Kunthipuzha, which is one of the tributaries of the Thuthapuzha and flows through the Silent Valley National Park, near Mannarkad.— Photo: K.K. Mustafah  

: It was five years ago, the Kerala State Human Rights Commission directed the Palakkad district administration to initiate strict action against those who use pump sets with 10 to 15 horse power to draw water from the Kunthi river, an undammed perennial tributary of the Bharathapuzha, which was saved through the historic Silent Valley agitation.

But human rights activist Jayasree Chathanath, who obtained the directive from commission member K.E. Gangadharan, says the river is facing an imminent death due to indiscriminate sand-mining and excessive drawing of water using high capacity pump sets. The pump sets are mainly being used by those who cultivate banana in large scale. The river which flows quietly out of the Silent Valley because of high-capacity conservation efforts there, is being subjected to large-scale destruction in the Mannarkkad region. As a result, the drinking water situation in Mannarkkad and its surroundings is heading from bad to worse.

``Widespread encroachments on the banks of the Kunthipuzha in Mannarkkad town and surrounding areas such as Maplakadavu and Arattukadavu are raising serious concern.

Vested interests operate illegal pump sets and fell trees in large numbers. Building illegal structures by filling the shores with loose soil sourced from elsewhere is also killing the river,’’ said environmentalist P.S. Panicker.

Civil society movement Kunthipuzha Protection Samithy accuses the district administration of having a soft approach to the violators, mainly because of their political affiliations. It alleged that most of the encroachers have the support of local leaders of the ruling coalition.

“The historic Silent Valley agitation was aimed at protecting the Kunthipuzha. Now we are in need of another movement to protect it from encroachers,” said Mannarkkad Radhakrishnan of the samithy.

According to P.S. Panicker, the encroachments, if continued unabated, would kill the river, a feeder of the Thoothapuzha that merged with the Bharathapuzha.

“It is a fact that the encroachers enjoy easy escape owing to laxity on the part of administrators. It is high time the district administration appointed a special squad to trace encroachments on rivers and waste dumping. Only such a squad can effectively work to keep a tab on violators,” Mr. Panicker said.

According to Mr. Radhakrishnan, the riverbed close to the Kunthipuzha bridge in Mannarkkad was encroached upon for erecting walls for a housing complex.

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