Greens fear Periyar water diversion project would cause scarcity in Kochi

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KINFRA plan aims to draw water from Thottumugham to cater to the industrial sector

Kochi , Periyar river
Kochi , Periyar river

KOCHI : With environmentalists raising concern over the project to divert 45MLD (million litres/day) of water from the Periyar, Ernakulam Collector Jafar Malik has decided to convene a meeting of various department heads. The meeting will be held after the Thrikkakara byelection on May 31. The Kerala Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (KINFRA) is implementing the project.

The project aims to draw water from Thottumugham, upstream of the KWA pumping station in Aluva, to cater to the industrial sector including the Infopark Phase I and II, Smart City, KINFRA Export Promotion Industrial Park, KSEB Brahmapuram Power Plant and the Petrochemical Industrial Park at Ambalamugal.

“Around 55 lakh people in Kochi are dependent on the water from Periyar river, and there are no open wells or bore wells in the city. The project will cause acute shortage of potable water in Kochi,” said environmentalist and biodiversity expert C M Joy.

He said there were instances when saline water reached up to Malayattoor during summer. “This led to the distribution of saline water through the water authority pipeline,” he pointed out. Joy said the authorities have ignored the fact that water flow in the Periyar has changed drastically after the 2018 flood.

“The Periyar needs a flow of 4,800 to 17,110MLD to dilute the industrial discharge, which can lead to mass fish kill downstream. KINFRA can draw water from Muvattupuzha river. Though water is diverted for irrigation, the Muvattupuzha has a steady flow as water from the Moolamattom power station is released into it. We demand the government drop the plan to divert water from the Periyar,” he said.

A senior Kerala Water Authority official said the concerns cannot be brushed off. “The Periyar has been facing water shortage during the pre-monsoon period, especially March to May. We had to seek water from the Bhoothathankettu dam to maintain the water level,” he said. Refuting the allegations, irrigation department executive engineer Sandhya said the KINFRA project will not affect the water distribution in Kochi.

“Around 52 lakh cubic metres of silt has accumulated in the tributaries of the Periyar after the 2018 flood. We are trying to remove silt to the maximum extent possible before May 20, which will increase the flow of the river and improve the quality of water. This will improve the water table too. Muvattupuzha river is already stressed and we cannot draw more water,” she said. KINFRA nodal officer Ambily T B said the water resources department had issued an order in 2016 allowing to draw 50MLD water from the Periyar.

“We have pegged the water requirement at 45MLD calculating the need for the next 20 years. The project is expected to be completed in 2024 and we will be drawing only 12.5MLD in the beginning. After the opening of the Petrochemical Park, the demand will rise to 20MLD and reach 45MLD after 15 years,” she said.

The industries in the KINFRA project area have been facing acute water shortage for the past five years and most of them are dependant on water tankers, Ambily said. “We have to ensure a steady supply of water to attract more industries,” she added.

Social impact study by Rajagiri Outreach in 2017
The average water flow in the Periyar at Aluva is 1,020 MLD. The dependable water flow in Periyar at Neeleswaram is 1,370 MLD during summer and 35,740 MLD during monsoon. The committed water requirement for current and future projects is 1,020 MLD. However, there is a requirement of 1,728 MLD during dry season to control saline water intrusion. The construction of regulator-cum-bridges at Manjummal and Pathalam has helped check the intrusion of saline water.

City’s needs
The Kerala Water Authority pumping station at Aluva draws around 290 MLD of water to meet the potable water needs of Kochi city. Besides, around 100 MLD water is drawn from Muvattupuzha river to the Maradu plant for distribution in West Kochi, Thevara and adjacent areas. Aluva taluk has 107 lift irrigation schemes, the biggest number in Kerala.

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