Lost reflections

Seema Krishnakumar | Updated on January 16, 2018 Published on December 30, 2016

Here’s looking beyond the postcard-like images of Kerala’s famed backwaters

Kerala’s multi-crore tourism brand is not all picture-perfect.The State invested crores in building infrastructure for the signature backwater tourism in the Vembanad-Kol wetland system, also a protected Ramsar site. What it ignored is the alarming water pollution from the fuel-run houseboats and effluents from the farms in the region. Adding to the woes is the rainfall deficit, which has crippled the flushing of the backwaters through flooding.

The Thanneermukkom bund — constructed to control the flow of saline water into the backwaters — has failed to make an effect in the inner canals thanks to landfills and bridge constructions. This has turned the waterways into a breeding ground for water hyacinth.

The financial burden of this catastrophe falls on the local population. The shortage of drinking water is the biggest problem. Pradeep, a contractor who specialises in the construction of wells, says that more than 25 wells have been dug in the last few months in Muttar panchayat alone. Each well sets back the residents by ₹30,000. Some villagers resort to rainwater harvesting for drinking water. But they are often compelled to buy cans of water. A 20-litre can comes for ₹50.

Even more complicated is the story of a group of farmers who rely on canal transportation of farming materials to interior paddy fields. Around 50 families of a village in Ramankary panchayat pooled in money to hire a JCB at ₹1,500 an hour to remove water hyacinth from canals. They ran up a bill of ₹2 lakh to clean a small area.

Seema Krishnakumar is a photographer currently based in Coimbatore

Published on December 30, 2016