The state government now sees Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board (KIIFB) as the panacea for the drinking water woes of Kuttanad. Finance minister T M Thomas Isaac's office said a Rs 1000-crore drinking water project, Kuttanad Water Supply Scheme, has already been granted sanction by the KIIFB director board.
"The tender process is already complete," a top source in the finance minister's office said.
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"The plan is to source water for Kuttanad's needs from the upstream of Pampa river, where pollution is less. The rest of the rivers, like Meenachil and Achenkoil are inadequate," the source said. The plan looks similar to the water supply scheme for Alappuzha town. Water from the Pampa is collected in a huge reservoir in Thiruvalla from where water is pumped to various parts of Alappuzha town.
Besides sourcing water from the Pampa, the Kuttanad water scheme also envisages the laying of an underground pipeline network to take water from a centralised plant to various parts of Kuttanad. The government is aware of the enormity of the challenge.
“The project will be relatively costlier as it would involve laying of lines beneath lakes and rivers. There is a bit of risk, too, as the pressure on these underwater pipes is going to be huge. There are also concerns of seepage,” the source said.
The source said a centralised water supply network has hitherto not been developed for Kuttanad because of the region's peculiarity. “The region had its own unique native ways of dealing with its water woes. For instance, most places had freshwater dykes that were sources of drinking water in villages. But now, in the past seven to eight years, the pollution in streams and ponds have seeped into these dykes and are now, therefore, undependable,” the source said.
However, the signs of failed attempts at laying underground pipes are everywhere. In some areas there are public taps, but no water. But more common are large pipes lying abandoned and crumbling on the sides of roads. In other areas are seen large tanks of 10,000-litre capacity, again along roadsides. Local bodies are supposed to fill these tanks with potable water from places like Thiruvalla and Changanassery. The four that Onmanorama came across were empty. Locals said these had not been in use for years.