Ithikkara river on verge of ‘imminent’ death

DC | SHAM MOHAMMED
Published Nov 11, 2014, 11:44 am IST
Updated Jan 10, 2016, 8:38 am IST
A major feeder of Paravur Lake and perennial source of drinking water for many
Ithikkara river-Paravur lake ecosystem is heading towards permanent ecological degradation, says a study conducted by HELP Foundation, an NGO based here. (PHoto: DC)
 Ithikkara river-Paravur lake ecosystem is heading towards permanent ecological degradation, says a study conducted by HELP Foundation, an NGO based here. (PHoto: DC)
KOLLAM: The Ithikkara river, which is the major feeder of Paravur lake and a perennial source of drinking water for numerous families in Kollam district,  is facing a slow death.  The Ithikkara river-Paravur lake ecosystem is heading towards permanent ecological degradation, says a study conducted by HELP Foundation, an NGO based here.
 
As part of the study, the team visited 12 panchayats along the catchment areas of the river to collect  data that points to the reasons for  the ‘imminent’ death of the river. The study cites large-scale deforestation in the catchment areas around the low hills of Karakunnu adjacent to Madathara on the foothills of Western Ghats apart from adverse changes in land-use patterns on its banks as major reasons for the decline of the river. The study also points at illegal sand-mining which has virtually ruined the entire riverbanks mostly in the downstream panchayats where the river merges with Paravur lake.
 
“Mining sand and stones which has left behind deep ponds in the river has caused loss of its natural balance giving way to side effects, including erosion of the soil to the tune of acres. The water is meant to be distributed among nature’s beings and check dams are constructed without following any environmental norms,” said environmental activist S. Archbald.
 
Check dams are the main physical threats fragmenting and transforming rivers as they are only suitable for a limited drainage area and significantly reduce the hydraulic capacity of the channel and create turbulence which erodes the channel banks.
 
Encroachments into the river can be seen throughout, especially the higher stretches of the river near to the catchment area. Mainly rubber trees have been planted into the river bed, apart from other vegetation. At certain places the course of the river has been altered. Much of the fresh water biodiversity is lost and this is very severe in the downstream panchayats due to saline intrusion.
 
The river has become non-perennial and has dried up along the upstream. Illegal quarries are one of the factors in addition to the largescale deforestation in the catchment area for this anomaly. Downstream the entire river bank is missing in large stretches and it resembles a medium-to-large pool in various places. This has led to dropping groundwater levels causing deterioration of riparian forests.  In addition, arable land has been degraded and wells have fallen dry. Huge pits in the river bed caused by mechanised sand mining make it a  dangerous place to navigate, the study says.
 
“The causes of the destruction of the river point to the failure of our watershed-based schemes like IWMP and MGNREGA run by the panchayats and the government machinery. Panchayat representatives once again  prove that they cannot ring in the administrative changes nor do they have the will or the ability to lead administration as mandated in the Panchayat Raj Act,” said Mr Peter Pradeep, HELP Foundation.
 
The report stresses the need for  strengthening the river basin apart from restoration of all major wetlands or paddy fields and flood plains and calls upon the authorities to work together with the revenue authorities in restoring the river banks and augment the floodplains or wetlands around it, leading the way for an ecosystem- based management (EBM).
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