For long, Keralites had attributed climate change to a phenomenon happening in faraway lands. But the effects of global warming and climate change are causing drastic problems even in our land. Extreme rainfall triggers floods overnight. Then couple of days later, rivers and streams dry up. For instance take a look at the Meenachil River that cuts through Kottayam district in Kerala and you would be wondering if this was the same one that was in spate couple of days ago, inundating several areas along its banks. Now the water in it has dropped to an unusual level! You cannot miss such signs of obvious climatic changes and their impact as you check your own surroundings. This is one real picture of the climate change.
Where will the water go?
The high-density of population and large-scale constructions mean that there is little soil space for the water to be absorbed in Kerala. Most of the places have tarred roads or buildings. Tiles were even laid at the courtyards of traditional worship places.
Paddy fields absorb water well, but their area is relatively less in a place like Kottayam which is one of the rapidly urbanised districts of Kerala with very few forest area. With paddy fields and canals being filled up, the wetlands that stored the floodwater are also getting fast depleted. Our water bodies are becoming canals that come alive during the rains and then disappear. The days of dry, barren land may not be that far away?
Plants such as bamboo retain water in an area and help the soil to absorb it. With the widespread practice of growing a single crop and large-scale use of pesticides, the ability of the soil to absorb and store water has reduced. As walls made of stones are constructed along the banks, the streams have been reduced to mere canals.
The only solution is to plant trees, and reclaim the rivers and streams.
Also, give a special protection tag for paddy fields as water reserves. Restart cultivation in the unused paddy fields.
The fresh water reserves at the middle of paddy fields in Kumarakom is a model worth emulating.
Regulations must be brought in to stop stone quarrying in the eastern hill ranges and mining at Vagamon.
Each household should go back to traditional agricultural practices. Ploughing and digging are good for the soil. Reclaiming the traditional sacred groves and ponds would also help in conserving the nature.
The tourism sector of Kottayam will take a hit, when the water level is high and also when it is low. Tourists are already complaining about the foul smell emanating from the backwaters. Houseboat operators have to take special care to avoid polluting the streams and backwaters.