Water shortage and Sewa Bharathi in Kerala

Source: G. K. Nair, The Hindu, 29 Mar 2010

Drinking water shortage in Kerala, especially in the high and midland areas, has become so acute that the inhabitants have to depend on water supply by private operators.
In the Erath Panchayat of Pathanamthitta district, many households are buying water for washing and other purposes at Rs 350 (US$ 7.80) / 1,000 litres while drinking water costs Rs600-800 (US$ 13-US $18) / 1,000 litres.
According to Mr Mohan Das, a social activist, neither the government nor the panchayats are supplying drinking water in areas facing severe shortage
The Seva Bharathi, he said, is supplying drinking water to households free of cost in the Ayroor Panchayat.
He said that lack of summer rains this year, coupled with indiscriminate sand mining had led to a fall in ground water levels.
“Ever-increasing human intervention in recent years has changed the physical structure of the rivers Pampa, Manimala and Achankovil in such a way that it might sound their death knell , if the authorities continued to remain indifferent,” environment activists told Business Line.
One of the major victims of these activities is the River Pampa.
Sand mining has removed the sand bed, exposing the clay soil along several stretches of the river bed.
The river bed has also become deeper by even six meters at some places.
Consequently, the water table in the wells in the catchment areas also has fallen sharply , Mr N. K. S. Nair, General Secretary of an NGO, said
Check dams across the rivers are pointed out as a reason for the degradation of the rivers. When the riverbed level falls, the hydraulic gradient increases, leading to higher velocity.
As a result, immediately after the monsoon, water that flows into the rivers is drained out quickly, said Mr Nair, a retired engineer.
“In the absence of sand, no natural retention of water takes place. Sediment deficient flow of ‘hungry water’ picks up more sediment from the stream below the mining site, furthering the degradation process,” he said.
The normal monsoon season in Kerala is from June 1 to November 30 and the State used to receive on an average 3,000 mm of rainfall.

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