Most of the rivers in the State are formed as a result of a culmination of different streams originating from the Western Ghats. These streams including that of contribution from various water bodies highly influence the water availability in terms of both quality and quantity for the State. These streams when it reaches places with high population density results in pollution.

Read MoreFor a river to sustain its flow unpolluted, it is important that its tributaries and streams that join it shall remain pollutant-free. Though the water availability in the State is mainly dependent on rainfall, various pollutants entering into water bodies and in nearby places makes the issue more complex. Pollution in ponds/tanks mainly occurs due to stagnant water while in the case of rivers, it is due to lean flow, especially during summer.


Causes of Pollution

Apart from the fluctuation in water availability during the lean season, pollution is caused by various other factors. Urbanisation, change in land use pattern, use of excess chemical fertilizers, change in lifestyle, unscientific waste disposal system including that of letting out sewerage to water bodies are some of the main reasons to be highlighted with. The pollutants mostly include water from households and shops. Various study reports suggest that a large number of wastes are let out to rivers from hotels, markets, slaughterhouses, colonies, workshops etc. Also, along the curves in the rivers, meandering has resulted in the formation of small island portion which obstructs the flushing out of pollutants something even resulting in a change in the river course. Encroachments and filling-up of rivers for commercial purposes have also resulted in pollution. Hence, there is an urgent need to regulate and control the above-said actions which significantly contribute to pollution of water bodies.

National Green Tribunal Award

The Hon: National Green Tribunal in its order in O.A 673/2018 dated 19/12/2018 has specifically noted that “contamination of water and deterioration of water quality are matters to be taken seriously as they affect public health and right of the citizen to have access to potable drinking water”. The Hon: Tribunal has also noted that “there is a need to enhance the river flow through the intervention on the watersheds/catchment areas for conservation and recharge of rainwater for subsequent releases during lean flow period in a year and on the other hand, there is a need to dilute the pollutants in the rivers and streams so as to reduce the concentration to meet the desired level of water quality”. Based on the same, it was directed for concrete action plans for removal of pollutants from rivers as well as other water bodies.

Need for Model replicates in tackling pollution

While the order of Hon: Tribunal has cited action plans made for river Hindon (a tributary of river Yamuna) that can be referred as a model, it is intended that international models like the ‘Alabama Water Watch (AWW)’ of USA, Tennessee Valley Project, River Alliance of Wisconsin etc wherein educating citizens being one of its vision can be adopted. It is in this context that needs for collaborations with technical institutes of the State plays a pivotal role as the same includes educating future generations. It is intended that exposure be imparted to students for the real-world problems and solutions they need to find tackling the same. In the present case, the technical team that will be formed will be assigned with the task of conducting field survey thereby understanding the field realities and offering solutions both structural and non-structural ultimately converting them to concrete action plans. The Irrigation Department shall be providing necessary guidance in this regard. Alliance of water sciences institutes like River Alliance in the USA, Water Alliance of Germany. Resources and expertise from world-class water institutes like the following may be contacted for creating such an alliance in Kerala.

  • Water Resources Engineering and Management (WAREM), University of Stuttgart
  • Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI)
  • IHE Delft Institute for Water Education
  • KWR Water Research Institute

Conducting an innovation encouragement event like “Water Hackathon” for bringing in ‘out of the box’ thoughts into the sector.

Expected Methodology

The following may be considered while formulating action plans and preparing DPRs:

  • Identification of the problem (Define)
  • Field survey to understand in-situ conditions which shall include transect walks for all the streams/tributaries joining the river
  • Identification of polluted stretches and points of polluting and marking them with the help of public/LSGIs.
  • Quantify and estimate the attributes (Measure & Analyse)
  • Water quality assessment of the river particularly at the entry/exit of each LSG.
  • Setting up of appropriate treatment systems in the catchment and effective utilization of treated sewage.
  • Restoration, Rejuvenation and Renovation ( 3 R )of traditional water bodies.
  • Way forward (Improve & Control)
  • Reinstating the linkage of water bodies with the ecosystems.
  • Sourcing of Resources for implementing projects and Implementation of the projects.
  • On the basis of survey and cause analysis suggesting a cost-effective optimal solution for abating pollution.
  • Preparation of River Action Plan and Detailed Project Report (DPRs) by Engineering colleges under the guidance of KIIDC, KERI and Irrigation Department.
  • Presentation of the findings and DPRs before the Higher Education Department and Environment Department.

For the physical implementation of projects in this sector, upcoming entrepreneurs should be exposed to the sector. WRD, Kerala is duty-bound to welcome such talents and create a conducive atmosphere for them to sustain in the environment. The sector shall open up immense possibilities in this sector and shall be a new vertical of opportunities not only in Kerala but the nation as a whole. Startup firms can make use of this opportunity.

► Tie up between WRD and Engineering Colleges - Pollution Abatement of 21 rivers/stretches pronounced in the judgement of Honourable National Green Tribunal - Proceedings of the Chief Engineer, Irrigation & Administration