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Reviving the historic Canoly Canal

The government has initiated a project to revive the Canoly Canal in Kozhikode. Residents of the city are enthused about the project, which will turn the historic canal into major waterway in Malabar, writes Biju Govind.

– Photo: S. Ramesh Kurup

Waiting for redemption: The Canoly Canal in Kozhikode.

Residents of Kozhikode city have suddenly renewed their interest in the Canoly canal. It was the visit of a team led by B.R. Menon, chairman, Kerala Shipping and Inland Navigation Corporation last week that triggered the significance of the 11.4-km-long canal connecting the Kallai River estuary in the south and Korappuzha River in the north.

The team was in the city to explore the possibility of reviving the manmade canal named after the Malabar Collector R. Canoly of the erstwhile British regime. The canal, also known as Elathur Kallai canal, was constructed during the tenure of Canoly in 1848 and it was used as a major waterway shipping goods and ferrying passengers in the district till the late 1950s.

Pathetic picture

But today it presents a pathetic picture with indiscriminate encroachments of the banks and chunks of solid waste being dumped into the muddy waters.

At a meeting with district officials at the Collectorate, Mr. Menon said that the government was actively considering the development of the canal.

Goods and passenger traffic would be introduced through it. However, the urgent need was to prevent disposal of waste from hotels, slaughter houses and housing colonies and hospitals into the water body.

Dredging would be carried out every year. At some places the canal would be deepened. A sum of Rs.3.10-crore would have to be spent for strengthening the walls of the canal at a stretch of at least 2 km, he said.

The canal, which is a part of the West Coast Canal System, has a width varying between 6 and 20 metres. The water depth ranges from 0.5 to 2 metres during the monsoon. Dimension stone has been lined on the sides of the canal. But at most locations, these linings have collapsed. Trees, shrubs and bushes have grown along the canal at most places. The flow of water is slow and almost negligible in the middle stretch of the canal.

Action plan

He said that an action plan would be initiated to demarcate the government land on both sides of the canal. A comprehensive study would be carried out to restore the waterway particularly for boats to transport goods and ferry passengers.

As part of the renovation project the canal would widened at places where required and a viaduct connecting Govindapuram and Tali roads would be constructed, Mr. Menon said.

Residents feel the renovation of the canal to make it waterway would help ease the traffic snarls in the city and its suburbs. Many others feel that the canal should be made a viable waterway transport system connecting to the Beypore port.

In fact, Canoly had also constructed another 31.5 km canal in Malappuram district connecting the Kadalundi River to Veliyangod. Now this canal is also known after the former Malabar Collector.

“Inland water system is cheaper by 50 per cent than that of road and rail systems. It is also environment friendly and fuel efficient mode of transportation,” says P.A. Jaiprakash, resident at East Hill.

The National Transport Policy Committee of India has already identified the West Coast Canal System of which Canoly canal is a part. “If the Government takes the waterway project seriously the canal could be developed not only as a major source of transport but also a tourism endeavour,” he said.

Earlier, the district administration had drawn up a proposal to start boat services through the Canoly canal.

It had also invited tenders from private entrepreneurs for starting the service from Elathur to Kallai.

However the project failed to take off owing to several reasons, including ecological problems.

Curbing pollution

Revenue Divisional Officer P.S. Mohammed Sagir had then submitted a report to District Collector A. Jayathilak regarding cleaning and preserving the canal. He along with officials of the Department of Water Resources, Kerala State Pollution Control Board and representatives of the Canoly Canal Development Committee took a ride from Elathur to Arayadathupalam and carried out a study to free the canal of garbage and prevent it from being polluted.

Mr. Sagir said that strict vigil was needed to prevent people from dumping putrid vegetables from markets and carcass from slaughter houses. One of the proposals was to set up sewage treatment plants at five different spots of the canal.

Modalities would be worked for such a proposal. Location of the treatment plants would be selected only after identifying the different outlets of the canal, Mr. Sagir said. A study conducted by Swedish researchers Anders Hamno and Asa Pettersson last year had also pointed out that after the cargo movement stopped through the waterway the canal only served the purpose of dumping of urban and domestic waste and flowing of storm water to sea. It was also found that the surface quality of water has been contaminated on account of discharges from residential areas and several hospitals. But many believe opening the Canoly canal to goods and passenger traffic will solve the problem of pollution. The traffic congestion on busy arterial roads in the city will also ease out.

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