National

Sand mining spells doom for south Kerala rivers

G. K. Nair Kochi | Updated on November 22, 2017




Aggressive human intervention, especially indiscriminate sand mining in southern Kerala's major rivers such as the Pampa, the Manimala and the Achankoil, has driven almost all the tributaries of these rivers, which once used to facilitate agriculture activities and water transport in the region, to the verge of death.

The worst affected among them are the Varattar which links the Pampa and Manimala rivers and the the Kuttamperoor river that connects the Pampa with the Achankoil.

The ‘Ithipalliyar’ which originated from the Achankoil river and fell into the Pampa is believed to have disappeared almost a century ago.

Grim scenario

Encroachment on both banks of the rivers has narrowed down the river width. At the same time water flow through the tributary is blocked much of the time following the fall in the main riverbed level due to continuous sand mining in the Pampa, official sources pointed out.

The riverbed which had a sand carpet of 15 – 20 feet thickness and spreading across the full width of Pampa has already disappeared, except for a small stretch between Ranni and Kuriyannur, following indiscriminate mining of sand for over a decade in spite of rules prohibiting such activities.

In fact, most part of the river has become water pools and marsh lands apart from becoming thickets, N.K. Sukumaran Nair, general secretary of Pampa Parirakshana Samithi, told Business Line. He said a similar situation exists in the Manimala and Achankoil rivers.

Fall in riverbed and removal of sand from beneath top soil at the embankment of the river has resulted in the embankments caving into the river in many places, they said.

Flood control

The natural formation of the tributaries linking the major rivers was to control the flood waters by transferring it from one to the other.

When the Pampa river is swollen during the monsoon season, the flood waters are discharged through the Varattar to the Manimala and similarly, through the Kuttanperoor to the Achankovil river and vice versa.

While the Varattar was the main water resource for areas such as Koipuram, Othara, Mangalam, Kuttoor and Thiruvanvandoor, the Kuttamperoor river catered to the needs of inhabitants in Ennakkad and Budhannoor villages.

In fact, till few decades ago, cargo-carrying country crafts used to sail through these tributaries that have been transformed into skeletons with marshy cesspools here and there. Consequently, the underground water table has dropped, creating acute drinking water shortage, Thomas P. Thomas, a senior botanist, told Business Line.

According to Nair, another tributary, which is also on the verge of death is the Kolarayar, a branch of the Pampa originating from the Arackel Muyappu and merges with the Areethodu, another branch of Pampa at Poovamveli Muyappu. The stream with a length of 7 km was used for water transport until two decades ago.

Published on December 20, 2012

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