The Kuttamperoor river in Kerala, which connects Achankovil and Pampa rivers, was earlier a shrunken cesspool of dumped waste and weeds. That situation prevailed for as long a period as a decade. However, there has been a sea-change, so to speak, and it has now been revived as a flowing river recently. The thanks goes to the efforts made by Budhanur gram panchayat in Alappuzha district, and also due to the commitment of nearly 700 locals who worked hard to revive the river under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), an Indian Express report said.
The river which originates from Achankovil at Ulunthi, flows through Ennackad, Budhanur, Kuttamperoor, Mannar, and Pandanad before merging with the Pampa at Nakkida near Parumala in Pathanamthitta district. It is believed that Kuttamperoor was originally a canal on which wide-body vessels used to carry items of trade and daily requirement. The river was the lifeline for thousands of people who lived on its banks. Country boats, which were called ‘palliyodams’, once raced on it during the popular Aranmula boat race. The stream was a natural flood control channel between the Pampa and Achankovil.
According to the report, with the advent of modern transportation, along with urbanisation, led to the river’s slow death, and thereafter weeds overran the river. Hotel industry and local residents then converted it into a garbage bin. Gradually, three bridges were also constructed across the river, resulting in further restriction of its flow. There was also illegal sand mining on the riverbed, and the river’s bank was dug up to mine clay for brick-kiln units. Also chemical fertilisers and sewage flowed into the stream.
The plan to revive Kuttamperoor river was proposed in 2013, and received a push after a dry spell in the region. Several environmental activists and organisations and people’s representatives were debating options to revive the river, and ideas like taking the help of dredger to clean the river of weeds was considered. However, funding issues kept the project from getting started.
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Soon, the initiative was taken up by Budhanur panchayat of the Alappuzha district. It was decided to bring the river back to life under MGNREGS in December 2016 and the work started next month. Speaking to Indian Express, Panchayat president Advocate P Vishwambhara Panicker said, “Seven hundred workers, mostly women, were deployed to clean the river to restore its flow. After 30,000 man-days, water flow through the 12-km river was restored.”
No machines were used for the river’s revival, which ended on March 20.“For the women workers, it was not merely a job guarantee scheme. They toiled with a social commitment. It was exemplary asset creation under the MGNREGS,” Panicker was quoted as saying by the paper.