Thiruvalla: Keralites seem to be paying a heavy price for neglecting water bodies and not storing for a rainless season. Eight months ago, the residents of Upper Kuttanad had fled from the area after the worst floods in a century ravaged Kerala. Now, ironically, they may be forced to leave the place again over a totally contrasting situation – drought.
The vast Upper Kuttanad area comprises parts of Kottayam, Pathanamthitta and Alappuzha districts.
Already, all the streams and wells in Upper Kuttanad have dried up and the people here are entirely dependent on the water supplied by the Kerala Water Authority through its pipelines once a week.
The areas where the most acute water shortage is felt are Peringara, Niranam, Nedumbram and Kadapra panchayats in Pathanamthitta district. Even perennial streams in the area and their springs have dried up. As a result, there is no water in the wells.
There are, around 50 small streams, including Kolarayar and Areethodu, in Niranam,which is also in Pathanamthitta District; over 100 rivelets, including Vengalthodu and Edinjilamthodu, in Peringara while Kadapra is surrounded by the Manimala and Pamba rivers. All these streams have dried up and water shortage haunts residents. Incidentally, water level in all these streams had risen by 10-15 feet during the floods eight months ago.
Locals say lack of measures to protect the streams was the main cause of the drought. The streams have been reduced to drains, carrying away rainwater during the monsoon and a fertile ground for weeds to grow in summer. Moreover, most streams and rivulets have been encroached upon, they pointed out.
Situation may worsen
Studies have shown that the water table in Upper Kuttanad has fallen by up to six metres. If it goes down any further, a tragedy awaits the residents of the area.
Authorities fear that the situation would aggravate after the Thaneermukkom bund is opened on April 20. The water level in the Manimala river is at present below sea level. This has been the situation downstream of Edasserykayam in Kaviyoor since two months ago, when the level measured. When the bund is opened, the sea water would naturally flow into these areas, it is felt.
However, the water level at Keecherikadavu, where the Manimala and the Pamba rivers merge, is about one feet above sea level. This is owing to the water released to the Pamba river from the Kakki reservoir.