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Sand heaps choke Kallada river

By Ignatius Pereira


KOLLAM, JAN. 25 . Massive heaps of sand deposited along the course of the Kallada river in the deep forest areas as a result of the landslides in October 1992 and cataclysmic floods have not only choked the river but ruined the ecosystem of the very forests that the river nurtured.

Those acquainted with the river for years say that a good portion of the river, running to roughly 18 km, in its forest course along Nankachi now remains submerged. It is no more the gushing water body that it used to be. Areas along its course that were more than 15-ft deep with water rushing down during this time of the year are hardly one-foot deep now.

The picturesque boulders that offered a visual treat have vanished under the sand and the river is struggling to push itself forward. Huge amounts of water get trapped and soaked into the sandy heaps and what flows is comparatively just a stream. In its struggle to rush forward, the river, hurdled by the sand heaps, is gnawing away the banks in what appears to be a desperate attempt to carve out a new course wherever possible. This has resulted in considerable destruction to the ecosystem as huge trees are uprooted constantly.

Adivasis living in the area told that hundreds of valuable trees that had been uprooted lie buried under the sand. Besides, the forest continues to lose a good number of trees every year, with the river trying to to find a new course.

Not only the flora, but even the fauna suffers on account of the situation. The Kallada river is the main source of water for the animals in the forests. Wild elephant herds, which normally wallow in the water during the summer, find the river unfit for that now.

Moreover during afternoons, when the animals need cool water, the river turns hot, as the sand gets heated up by the sun.

The Adivasis say the only alternative to restore the ecosystem is to remove the sand and restore the natural depth of the river.

This, however, calls for sand-mining. But, as sand-mining is considered harmful to the environment, the Forest authorities are reluctant to permit sand-mining in the area.

Those living on the banks of the river say that failure to remove the sand would spell danger to the environment. They argue that a river has to have its own natural depth created over the years in order to remain alive.

According to a local resident, Sharafuddin, "environment protection in such a situation needs freeing the river from the sand clutches". Wrong ideas of environment protection can wreak havoc, he says adding, "it's quite evident that the sand heaps are slowly killing the river and the ecosystem.". The impact is not only felt at Nankachi but beyond.

The Kallada river, on its course to the Arabian Sea on the Kollam coast, is blocked midway at Thenmala by the Parappar dam of the Kallada Irrigation Project (KIP). The height and capacity of this dam, commissioned in 1985, are 115 metres and 524 million cubic metres respectively. However, the sand heaps have been slowly moving into the catchment area of the dam too. In fact, at Paamol within the catchment area, there is a heap of sand rising to more than 60 feet, forming an island within the catchment area.

This means that the height and capacity of the dam have considerably dropped since 1992. In a bid to check this, the KIP authorities had invited tenders a few months ago to remove the excess sand so as to maintain the height and capacity of the dam.

However, on account of pressure from environmental-related aspects, the Forest Department prevented the removal of sand by on grounds that the catchment area was located in a wildlife sanctuary.

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