FAULTY  PLANNING  CAUSES   WATER  SHORTAGE                                                        - Manoj R

Kerala, which enjoys the status of being India's 100% literate state, is in trouble due to poor water conservation and faulty planning. According to Magsaysay Award winner, Rajendra Singh, a leading exponent on water literacy: "The state might have attained total literacy more than a decade ago. But it's still illiterate as far as conservation of bio-diversity is concerned."
    Kerala's leanings towards a centralised system of pipes to deliver safe drinking water to everyone continues to parch thousands all over the state. The cost of drinking water projects  has    increased    six   times  in  

decades, touching Rs 719.53 crore by the Ninth Five-Year Plan. All along, the issue of water conversation has been ignored. "Kerala, which is one of the wettest places in the country, is behind arid Rajasthan in per capita availability of drinking water," says Dr E J James, executive director of the Centre for Water Resources Development and Management (CWRDM), Kozhikode.

   In Vypin, an island off mainland Kochi, it's hard to walk more than a few hundred feet without getting one's feet wet. But the groundwater is almost entirely saline and unfit for drinking. Being at the extreme end of the pipeline system, the people here have to queue up at public taps for much longer.

    Kerala has been experiencing law rainfall regularly since 1980. Vembanad lake, included in the Ramsar list of wetlands of international importance, has lost one-third of its approximately 250 sq km to encroachment. Bharathpuzha, the second largest river in Kerala, on which 23 lakh people in 103 gram panchayats depend, has been reduced to a thin stream.

    In 2003, the government declared seven out of 14 districts in the state drought-affected. According to expert opinion, government   policies     over   the     years     have

worsened the effects of the state's natural disadvantages. The fact that the steep slopes of theWestern Ghats carry rainwater to the sea within 48 hours of their precipitation on the hills has been repeatedly overlooked. Kerala has also mismanaged its natural resources and failed to check deforestation, sand mining and pollution in almost all its rivers. A Greenpeace study reveals that the 244-km-long Periyar, which serves the drinking water needs of 50 lakh people, and irrigates 57,800 hectares, is polluted by about 250 industries, the worst culprit being the Eloor Industrial Area, 30 km from north Kochi. "My river is dying and I am helpless. The state is indifferent. Only if the people come together in strength and conviction can we save it now," says V J Jose, a Greenpeace activist who has been designated 'river keeper' for Periyar.


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