Life Re­turns to a River

RIVER CLEAN­ING INI­TIA­TIVE THOOTHA­PUZHA SAM­RAK­SHANA SAMITHI, KER­ALA

India Today - - SAFAIGIRI - —Jeemon Ja­cob

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.

SUMESH

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