NERIAMANGALAM : Nature is playing cruel games with people residing on the Periyar's banks.
Barely a few weeks ago, many were shifted to relief camps after heavy rain and the raising of dam shutters swelled the river and flooded their homes. Now, they are facing the possibilities of a severe drought, as the wells and the water streams coming from the forest have dried up in just a week in Kothamangalam and nearby areas. Officers of civic bodies have said they will start providing water in tanker lorries to the affected localities soon.
The Periyar first enters Ernakulam through the Kavalangad panchayat, a part of which is flanked by forest areas. The river covers the 28-km stretch of the panchayat. “I have never witnessed such a drought-like situation this time of the year in my life,” said Kalyani, 82, a resident of a colony near Neriamangalam. Three weeks ago, she and her sick daughters were shifted to a relief camp during the flood with the help of the police team.
“Never have I ever seen the water in the small stream near my house dry up. At this time of the year, the water in the stream is usually at the waist-level. However, for the past one week, the water flow has stopped and the entire stream has dried up. Now, the water level in my well is receding rapidly,” Kalyani said.
Ulahannan, the vice-president of Kavalangad panchayat, said people had initially thought the drought-like situation was caused due to the opened shutters of the Bhoothathankettu dam. “However, despite the shutters being closed now, the water level in the Periyar has not witnessed a major rise. We are clueless about what is happening here,” he said.
“People are concerned about the water level in wells. Though the water in the Periyar at the upper region of Bhoothathankettu has risen slightly, it will take at least 10 days for the water to enter the catchment area. Environmental experts should examine the reason behind the streams drying up, though," he said.
The situation is similar in Keerampara, Inchathotty and Thattekadu areas. When Express visited Neriamangalam and Inchathotty, it found the catchment areas of the Periyar fully dried up. Under the Neriamangalam bridge, half of the Periyar had dried up.Vincent Elickal, the vice-president of the Kothamangalam block panchayat, said water distribution will commence soon in places witnessing water shortage and severe drought-like conditions. The government has issued a directive to take all necessary measures, he said.“If the situation worsens, we will be providing potable waters via the tanker lorries. We face such situation, of the water level going down, in February and March,” he said.