Agri Business

Kerala proposes tough steps to tide over water crisis

Vinson Kurian Thiruvananthapuram | Updated on April 04, 2019

file photo   -  KR Deepak

Drought-like conditions and lack of summer showers forced the Kerala cabinet on Wednesday to review the availability of drinking water across the State.

Officials have been told to resolve the issue but observe the model code of conduct as well, a top official said. A number of MLAs had earlier complained of drinking water scarcity in their respective areas.

Chief Secretary Tom Jose said that local self-government officials have been directed to supply drinking water wherever there was a shortage.


Nearly ₹30 crore has been sanctioned to the Kerala Water Authority for repair and maintenance. Along with this, special care is also being taken to prevent disruptions.

A Kerala Water Authority official admitted to prevalence of harsh drought conditions but expressed confidence that it has enough storage to meet drinking water needs for the time-being.

The Chief Secretary is video-conferencing with district collectors on a daily basis and assessing the situation, and reports are being submitted to the Chief Minister.

In Thiruvananthapuram, the main reservoirs Peppara/Aruvikkara have enough storage to maintain drinking water supplies to the State capital until June 15, the Kerala Water Authority official said.

At the upstream Peppara reservoir, from which water is pumped into Aruvikkara before being filtered and distributed, the water level is at a comfortable 102.75 metres.

Thiruvananthapuram city has 2.6 lakh connections, and the daily requirement is estimated at 300 million litres. An additional eight million litres is being readied to meet exigencies.

Also read: Scorched earth: Drought rages after monsoons fail

The Authority has deputed special squads to find misuse of precious drinking water and prosecute them. Given the prevailing conditions, generation of electricity at Peppara has been confined to between 4 pm and 8 pm.

The dry spell that immediately followed one of the century’s worst floods in the State last August worsened with the failure of the North-East monsoon (October-December).

Drought after flood

Major rivers such as Periyar, Bharathapuzha, Pampa and Kabani, which were in spate during the floods, are now quite depleted.

The dry spell after the August floods was followed by reports of rising mercury levels, unprecedented dip in water levels of rivers, sudden drying up of wells, depletion of groundwater reserves and mass perishing of earthworms, raising concern.

CS Gopakumar of the Academy of Climate Change Education and Research, Kerala Agricultural University-Thrissur, said that the State has experienced an increase in temperatures over time.

The India Meteorological Department has reported that the mean maximum temperature has increased by 0.7 degrees C, the mean minimum by 0.2 degrees C, and the average temperature by 0.5 degrees C for 43 years since 1961.

Gopakumar and Prasada Rao (2018) studied the temperature trends over the State and reported that the increase in average temperature was 0.65 degrees C from 1956 to 2014. The increase in maximum temperature was 0.99 degrees C, while the increase in minimum temperature was 0.31 degrees C.

Also read: Use minimal water, ensure maximum efficiency: KAU

Sunburns were reported in March 2010 from Palakkad and Thrissur districts for the first time in the history of Kerala. But the number has grown close to 300 this year. Also, many parts of the State recorded extreme daytime temperatures of more than 40 degrees C in March 2010.

Since then, the maximum temperature in several parts of Palakkad district has escalated to more than 40 degrees C. It even went up to 41.9 degrees C on one occasion. The upper limit of the daytime temperature has seen a rise in recent years. And it isn’t confined to Palakkad or Punalur.

Riverbed scouring

Speaking to BusinessLine, Thomas Oommen, Associate Professor, Michigan Technological University, had said that floods impact the topography and particularly, they contribute to the possibility of riverbed scouring.

The latter occurs when the shear stress induced by the flowing water is more than the shear resistance of the channel-bed material.

Riverbed scouring

The August floods in Kerala resulted in high flows in all the rivers. Such high flows led to excessive riverbed scouring.

Typical riverbed material has low permeability and can hold the water. However, the high flows remove these low-permeability materials.

In addition, the opening of a number of dams caused high flows in the downstream channels, which are also vulnerable to scouring.

The scouring and deepening of riverbeds will lead to lowering of the groundwater table along a river, which can cause a drop in the level of water in wells and dry out vegetation on floodplains.

The lowering of water in the wells and signs of dried up vegetation immediately after the flood do not indicate an impending drought, Oommen had said. But, his warning that a future drought can be more damaging as the groundwater levels had depleted, could well be proving painfully true already, if current happenings are any indication.

Published on April 04, 2019

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