Plea for renovation of AVM Canal

P.S. Suresh Kumar

Seawater seeping into drinking water facilities: centre

Built by Travancore’s Maharaja Marthanda Varma

Canal polluted by defecation, domestic effluents

NAGERCOIL: The Kanyakumari Resource and Research Centre has urged the government to take steps to renovate the Anantha Victoria Marthanda Varma (AVM) Canal to stop the seepage of seawater into drinking water facilities in the coastal areas of the district.

An important aspect of the canal is that the south flowing rivers and the tributaries, having their source in the Western Ghats, quickly drain into the Arabian Sea, the run off water before joining the sea channelised into the AVM canal to flow eastwardly. The canal, extending between Poovaru to Mondaicaduputhur, is now in a dilapidated condition, Centre secretary A. Maria James told The Hindu here.

Kanyakumari district has an extensive river and backwater system. Hence, water transport appears to have been in vogue from early times. It chiefly consisted of a series of natural reservoirs formed along the coast by inland drainage and connected by short lengths of artificial canals.

The AVM canal was built in 1860 during the reign of Marthanda Varma Maharaja of Travancore state. The scheme aimed at connecting Thiruvananthapuram and Kanyakumari, thus extending the water transport system to the extreme south of the country. Initially, it was only a short link. By 1860, the section between Poovarumugham to Colachel was completed. However, work was suspended when construction of Varkala canal started.

Marthanda Varma personally supervised and constructed the AVM canal, initially from Pozhiyur to Colachel, in order to transport salt from Manakudi, near here, and rice from the ‘grannery of Travancore’ — the present Kanyakumari district. More than 20 coastal villages, including Pozhiyur, Kollencode, Neerodi, Marthandamthurai, Vallavilai, Eraviputhanthurai, Thengapattinam, Colachel, Kottilpadu and Mondaicaduputhur depended upon the water resource for most of their needs including navigation. Moreover, the canal provided employment to locals as men and material had to be transported.

Today, the canal is polluted. It is choked with aquatic macrophytes that harbour mosquito larval. Defecation on the banks of the canal and release of domestic effluents into it are the main pollutants. In Mandicadu, the coconut husk retting operation is carried out near the canal. In Nerodi, Manavalakurichi and South Kollencode, the husk operation takes place in the canal itself. The hydrogen sulphide released from the retting pollutes the canal and the water has become turbid.

Similarly, from Colachel to Mandaicaduputhur, the aquatic weeds pose a nuisance. Even taking bath is impossible. At some places such as Enayam and Mullurthurai, there are encroachments.

Hence, the government must allot funds from the tsunami relief and rehabilitation (Asian Development Bank) scheme for the canal’s renovation, Ms. James said.