Kerala Rivers Review 2017 : Government Efforts Fail To Protect Rivers

The fifth rivers’ review highlights status of Kerala rivers in the year 2017. 

Rivers Pollution and Government Actions

Govt mulls severe punishment for agents of water pollution The state government on Feb. 2017 signaled its intentions to zero in on agents of pollution in water resources. The Pollution Control Board and Revenue Department officers swooped down on a private resort in Chinnakkanal, Idukki, for allegedly diverting sewage into a potable water source. Water Resources Minister Mathew T Thomas stated that his department has proposed amendments to the Kerala Irrigation and Water Conservation Act, 2003, to make punishments more severe. He also said that the govt was planning to have harsher measures in place to discourage people from polluting rivers and water bodies.http://www.newindianexpress.com/states/kerala/2017/feb/14/kerala-government-mulls-severe-punishment-for-agents-of-water-pollution-1570357–1.html (The New Indian Express, 14 Feb. 2017)

The state also planned to enact strong legislation for the conservation of rivers. http://www.newindianexpress.com/cities/thiruvananthapuram/2017/sep/06/state-to-frame-strong-law-for-river-protection-1653026.html(The New Indian Express, 6 Sept. 2017)

Govt launched project to save 3 rivers from pollution This Nov. 2017 report has some glimpse of what is going on between State Govt and Centre on the issue of river protection. As per Mathew T Thomas State Water Minister, his department hasprepared comprehensive pollution abatement projects for the rivers Bharathapuzha, Periyar, and Pampa under the Haritha Keralam Mission (HKM). He also revealed that state sought financial assistance from Centre but despite a visit of CWC nothing has happened. http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/project-to-save-three-rivers-from-pollution/article20063263.ece(The Hindu, 9 Nov. 2017)

Minister for Water Resources Mathew T. Thomas addressing reporters at the Pathanamthitta Press Club (Image Source: The Hindu)

Govt to start new project to revive its dying rivers and canals As per this Feb. 2017, State Govt. under HKM, decided to clear up (de-weed and de-silt) blocked rivers, canals, rivulets and local ponds in several districts to allow the free flow of water. The initial plans for Kannur’s Kanampuzha and the integration of the Pallikalar, Kolarayar and Meenachilar rivulets running through the Kollam and Pathanamthitta districts have been fixed. https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/kerala-takes-new-project-revive-its-dying-rivers-and-canals-76723 (The News Minute, 20 Feb. 2018)

Muvattupuzha River Meeting on Muvattupuzha river pollutionAmidst growing concerns over pollution in Muvattupuzha river, district administration in Feb. 2017 convened a meeting of various local bodies after Piravom Municipality sought the intervention of District Collector to clean the river. Dumping of wastes including plastic bottles, beer bottles, used diapers and sacks full of slaughterhouse remains has polluted the river especially, the Piravom stretch. The fact that the Piravom stretch of the river is the source for four major drinking water projects supplying water to over 10 lakh people in central Kerala highlights the gravity of the issue. http://www.newindianexpress.com/cities/kochi/2017/feb/19/muvattupuzha-river-pollution-meeting-called-1572433.html (The New Indian Express, 19 Feb. 2017)

018, the Irrigation Department has finally begun work on a permanent check dam at Ramamangalam on the Muvattupuzha river to enable the Choondi Water Treatment Plant to obtain water from the drawing well in all seasons. The gabion check dam costing over ₹7 crore would be built 50 metres down the Ramamangalam bridge so that the water level in the drawing well will not fall during the summer.

A temporary bund being built near the Ramamangalam bridge at Muvattupuzha to facilitate the construction of a check dam.  (Image Source: The Hindu) 

The Choondi plant had been facing the problem of water shortage during summers as the course of the river is away from the drawing well. For the past seven years, several lakhs of rupees have been spent on a temporary bund, which had become a necessity for the plant to draw enough water. Without a bund, it was difficult to draw 22 million litres of water that the plant supplied to the city and outskirts every day.

However, this year too, the Kerala Water Authority (KWA) would have to shell out ₹8 lakh to build a temporary bund as the check dam will not be completed before the summer is out. The technical and administrative sanctions for the check dam were given more than a year ago, but the work begun only now. The Irrigation Department had submitted the results of the soil test and the design for approval about two years ago. It was decided then that the Irrigation Department, rather than the KWA, would execute the project. Since the administrative sanction for the project was given to the KWA, the inter-departmental transfer of the sanction took some time to materialise. http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/check-dam-to-shore-up-water-supply-to-choondi-plant/article22683800.ece (The Hindu, 8 Feb. 2018) 

Mamuzha River Govt starts Mamuzha work In March 2018 the Govt has begun Mampuzha river dredging projects in rive clogged with plastic bottles & non-degradable sediments. The project will cover nearly 15 km stretch of the river between Kuttikkattoor and Kaduppini costing ₹1.75-crore. http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/kozhikode/dredging-work-to-restore-water-flow-in-river-begins/article22925456.ece (The Hindu, 4 March 2018)

According to a study conducted by the Centre for Water Resources Development and Management Kozhikode, Mampuzha River is severely polluted by plastic waste, slaughter waste and waste dumped from households. The flow of the river also is affected owing to the accumulation of silt and plastic in the river bottom. The Mampuzha River a major water resource in the area has been remaining flowless owing to the dumping of waste and lack of protection. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kozhikode/mampuzha-river-to-become-pollution-free/articleshow/63173794.cms (The Times of India, 5 March 2018) It is strange that dredging of 15 km stretch of Mampuzha River, is termed as Mampuzha Restoration Project.

The project will cover nearly 10-kilometre stretch of the river between Kuttikkattoor and Kaduppini. (Image Source: The Hindu)

Periyar River Black and unquiet flows the Periyar Animal bones are being dumped in the Periyar river near newly-built Pathalam regulator-cum-bridge causing foul smell in the area. There are 8 animal bone processing unit in Edayar industrial area on the banks of the Periyar river polluting the river severely. As a result, there was change in river water colour.  Most recently, when the shutters of the Pathalam regulator-cum-bridge built to prevent the ingress of saline water were raised – amidst resistance from locals clamouring for a slew of measures to arrest river pollution – the river downstream turned black and flowed with a pungent odour. The pollution often caused massive fish kills in the river. http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/black-and-unquiet-flows-the-periyar-in-kerala/article17326681.ece (The Hindu, 19 Feb. 2017)

Sorry state: The Periyar is highly polluted by effluent from industrial units in the Eloor-Edayar region.  (Image Source: The Hindu) 

Chitrapuzha & Kadaprayar Rivers KSHRC orders probe into river pollution In March 2017, the State Human Rights Commission directed the Thrikkakara municipality, State Pollution Control Board, and the Ernakulam district administration to investigate allegations that the Infopark-based Nita Gelatin was discharging chemical effluents into the Chitrapuzha and Kadaprayar rivers. It issued the notices based on a complaint filed by M.N. Giri alleging that the effluents from the plant were contaminating the river, making life difficult for the residents along the banks and exposing residents to the risk of cancer caused by contamination of the river water. http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-kerala/kshrc-orders-probe-into-river-pollution/article17693454.ece (The Hindu, 28 March 2017)

Karamana river Sewage affecting Karamana river’s health The absence of a decentralised system for sewage treatment in Thiruavananthapuram city was being viewed as a major hurdle in addressing the challenge of widespread contamination of the Karamana river. While the 107 MLD modern STP at Muttathara had been envisaged to meet the city’s requirement, only about 30% of the total accumulation reached the facility through sewage lines, according to rough estimates. http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Thiruvananthapuram/muck-that-chokes-rivers-health/article18662706.ece (The Hindu, 31 May 2017)

Pale-hued Karamana river near Thiruvallam where it meets the heavily-polluted Parvathy Puthanar canal.  (Image Source: The Hindu)

In Feb. 2018 the State Government has set apart Rs 3 crore for cleaning Karamana River in addition to Rs 8 crore allotted previously. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/thiruvananthapuram/efforts-to-clean-capitals-lifeline-gains-momentum/articleshow/62891983.cms(The Times of India, 13 Feb. 2018)

Pampa River Unabated pollution A letter issued recently by the Kerala State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) to the Devaswom Commissioner and the member-secretary of the high power committee (HPC) for implementation of the Sabarimala Master Plan became a testimony to the negligence on the part of the authorities concerned in ensuring foolproof functioning of the modern STP at the Sabarimala Sannidhanam. The letter said that the inspection conducted by a joint team of PCB engineers, TDB officials, and STP contractor on Nov. 26 had found 8 sewage collection tanks at the holy hillock had not yet been connected to the STP. http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-in-school/pollution-unabated-at-sabarimala/article21293365.ece (The Hindu, 8 Dec. 2017)

Important Surveys and Studies Central Travancore becoming a graveyard of rivers In Oct. 2017, a study by a team of experts predicted that Pampa will die in 55 years, if the present situation with the river system continues. The study led by scientist Ajayakumar Varma also gave just another 15 years for the Achencoil, 20 years for the Manimala, 45 years for the Meenachil, 30 years for the Muvattupuzha, and 15 to 20 years for the Chalakudy rivers.

(Image Source: The Hindu)

As per the study degradation of virgin forests in the catchment areas, unscientific sand-mining, degradation of tributaries, pollution caused by garbage, and illegal fishing using poison, dynamite, etc. were posing major threats to these once vibrant river systems of region comprising Pathanamthitta, Kottayam and parts of Alappuzha.

The study also mentioned that land conversion as part of urbanisation too has blocked many natural streams leading to the rivers. Without sand deposit, the riverbeds have lost their water-holding capacity, leading to fast flow of flood waters into the downstream immediately after cessation of the rains.

Dr. Varma said that extensive deforestation in the catchments during 1940-1980 had resulted in drying up of many tributaries of these river systems, badly affecting the regular flow, especially during summer. The study also highlighted the adverse impact of sand mining causing weakening of structures and lowering the riverbeds. http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/experts-predict-death-of-6-rivers/article19941417.ece(The Hindu, 28 Oct. 2017)

73% of Kerala’s water sources polluted Adding to the anxieties, a survey by Kerala State Literacy Mission Authority has found that an alarming 73% of water sources in the state is contaminated. Of the 3,606 water sources including rivers, streams, ponds, lakes and wells covered by the survey, 26.9% were found to be totally polluted. According to the report, houses and hotels are the main sources of pollutants (55.2%) followed by washing of vehicles (20%) and industrial establishments (11%). https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/thiruvananthapuram/73-of-keralas-water-sources-polluted-survey/articleshow/61718938.cms(The Times of India, 20 Nov. 2017)

Slow death of rivers A study by Kerala State Council for Science Technology and Environment (KSCSTE) finds most of Kerala’s existing rivers (Kabini, Periyar, Neyyar, Pamba, Karamana, Meenachil, Kadalundi, Kallayi, Valapattanam, Chalakudy, Bharatappuzha, Anjarakkandy-Thalassery) choked with sewage inflows, industrial effluents & solid waste. While Pamba is chocked by waste left by pilgrims, Periyar is reeling due to the effluents from hundreds of factories functioning in its vicinity. Kabini’s status as less polluted owes to its path that is through mostly forest areas and rural areas of Wayanad district.

The detailed study was completed by the team in nine phases. The first phase covered three major river basins including Kabini, Periyar and Neyyar. Water quality and pollution levels were monitored and the report was released in 2009. During the second phase, water quality of Karamana, Meenachil and Kadalundi river basins were monitored and the report came out in 2010. In the third phase, water quality was monitored at Pamba, Chalakudy, Bharatappuzha, Anjarakkandy-Thalassery river basins and the report was given in 2011. The final phase was in 2017. The study also identified hotspots at these rivers based on environmental water quality monitoring program. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kochi/quiet-die-the-keralas-rivers/articleshow/62878503.cms(The Times of India, 12 Feb. 2018)

Meenachil River Samiti awarded for exemplary river protection efforts In Nov 2017, Meenachil Nadee Samrakshana Samithi (MNSS) won the Bhagirath Prayas Samman (BPS) for for its dedicated efforts, in protecting and working to restore the ecological integrity of the Meenachil river feeding the Vembanad Lake—a Ramsar site in Kerala following a basin approach and an inclusive engagement process. The Samithi’s work is exemplary for its unique ways in combining education, campaigns and local action, without any external funding support, leading to local ownership and collaboration to achieve scale for change and tangible impact. https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2017/11/28/2017-bps-awards-to-meenachal-samiti-in-kerala-mahaveer-singh-in-rajasthan-inaugural-anupam-mishra-medal-for-river-focussed-media-work-to-arati-rao/ (SANDRP, 28 Nov. 2017)

Justice Madan Lokur of Supreme Court of India giving away the BPS 2017 to President and secretary of Meenachal Nadee Samrakshan Samithi (Image Credit: SANDRP)

Compiled by Bhim Singh Rawat, SANDRP (bhim.sandrp@gmail.com)

You may also like to see Rivers Review 2017 for other Indian States 

North India Rivers Review 2017: Pollution Poisoning Lifelines

Maharashtra Rivers Review 2017: Multi-colored Rivers!

West India Rivers Review 2017: Govts, Industries Destroy Rivers

South India Rivers Review 2017: More Water for Cities from Drying Rivers

Tamil Nadu Rivers Review 2017: Despite Drought; Diversion of Rivers

East India Rivers Review 2017

North East India Rivers Review 2017: Agenda behind Brahmaputra & Barak Fesitvals won’t Help the Rivers

Positive Rivers Stories 2017: Citizens Reconnecting with Rivers

India Rivers Studies 2017: Rivers Succumbing To Dams, Pollution & Climate Change 

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