Life Returns to a River
RIVER CLEANING INITIATIVE THOOTHAPUZHA SAMRAKSHANA SAMITHI, KERALA
Discharge of waste and sand mining had almost killed Thoothapuzha, the main tributary of the Bharathapuzha, the second largest river in Kerala. It was running dry in the summer. The water from Thoothapuzha provides drinking water to 23 panchayats. Fed up, people living on the banks formed the Thoothapuzha Samrakshana Samithi (Thoothapuzha Protection Forum). Soon, it became a mass movement, with hundreds joining in.
“We are the problem and we are the solution,” says Veeran Kollathu, 61, of Cherpulassery village. “We never bothered about Thoothapuzha till the drinking water problem hit us. Earlier, we feared the river when it overflowed during the rains. Later, we realised that a healthy river saves lives.” When the sewage water discharge into the river was sealed, the water quality improved instantly. This made the villagers realise that to keep the river alive, they had to revive the streams that fed it. Thus began the project to clean the major inlets into the Thoothapuzha. The group’s activities, however, did not end with river conservation. Having learnt that effective watershed management is crucial to ensure a healthy river, they decided to revive the fallow paddy fields and organic cultivation in the area. The Thoothapuzha now flows quietly and even feeds the Bharathapuzha when it dries up in the summer. Another welcome surprise—otters have returned to the river after a long gap.