Unlike the scenic backwater system that opens to it, the river mouth at Pazhukkanila where the Kodoor and Meenachil rivers meet the Vembanad lake, is almost featureless for its entire three-km-long course.
Along its riverbed, only trash and weeds hold the sway while the centuries-old waterway that runs through it remains unnavigable. The sedimentation has affected its aquatic life, besides raising the risk of flooding in areas surrounding the entire backwater network.
Faced with the prospects of a slow death, this unique water body may get back to cutting flood risk and bolstering bio-diversity. The authorities are soon set to launch a pioneering work to de-silt and breathe life into the system.
The project envisages using the huge volumes of mud deposits on the 1.5-km-wide river bed for strengthening the bunds around the polder networks across Kuttanad. As part of it, agreements will be struck with the various farmer collectives in the region and a fleet of 100 country boats will be deployed for collecting and transporting the mud to the identified locations.
Additionally, panchayatlevel monitoring committees will be formed to ensure that no diversions are taking place in the utilisation of the material.
To begin with, the Inland Waterways Authority will clear the alternative waterway connecting the Kottayam port and the Vembanad lake through the channel. This will be followed by a massive clean-up initiative, to be carried out jointly by the public and the government departments concerned, said K. Anil Kumar, convener of the Meenchil- Meenathara-Kodoor River Linking initiative.
A recent study by an expert committee constituted by the Kottayam district administration found that the slurry material deposited on the water bed would not come under the definition of any minerals. The study report, which also recommended exempting the drudging works in Pazhukkanila from the scope of the Mining and Minerals Rules, has now been accepted by the State government.
The river mouth at Pazhukkanila, which also houses a 200-year-old light house, had served as a strategic point along the water route that connected the Kottayam region with the rest of Kerala for centuries. It was at this junction that a group of soldiers under the Dutch commander Eustachius De Lannoy camped and attacked the Thekkumkoor king and eventually annexed the state to the Travancore kingdom in 1749, said Rajeev Pallikonam, a local historian.