River Management Fund remains underutilised

No action taken to protect the river banks or stop illegal sand mining; a meeting to be held to decide on the fund utilisation

Published: 13th August 2017 10:19 AM  |   Last Updated: 13th August 2017 10:19 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

THRISSUR: Even while several river banks are being encroached upon not to mention the very many instances of illegal land occupation across the state, the corpus provided under the River Management Fund remains largely underutilised in all the districts.The information gleaned through RTI said as on July 2017, `137.07 crore remains unused with the administration as River Management Fund.
Curiously in Thrissur,Palakkad and Malappuram through which the Bharathapuza and several smaller rivers pass,the total amount remaining unspent  comes to `86.27 crore, with the break-up being `20.92 crore, `14.43 crore and `50.91 crore,respectively   Among all districts, Malappuram has the  biggest allocation under the River Management  while Alappuzha with `1.29 crore has the lowest. 

The allocation for other districts is as follows: Thiruvananthapuram(`20.62 crore), Kollam(`11.86 crore),Pathanamthitta(`5.9 crore), Idukki(`5.11 crore), Kottayam `3,20 crore), Kasargod(`1,72 crore), Ernakulam(`7,83 crore, Kozhikode(`9,63 crore) and Wayanad (`3.75 crore).Green campaigner K K Devdas told Express it is unfortunate despite having such a corpus the district administration did not initiate any steps to clear the encroachments or even protect the river banks. 

He said the money allocated under the River Management Fund is generated mainly from sand  mining carried out legally. A portion of the amount collected for the sand through issuing of passes goes to the River Fund.  “We have brought the issue of growing number of violations and illegal activities which has taken place in Thrissur to the District Collector’s attention. However, not enough has been done to protect the river banks or stop illegal sand mining. “In Cheruthurty over 2 km of river bank has been encroached upon and it has been brought to the attention of Collector who was unaware of the same despite his office having replied to the RTI related to it,” Devdas said. 

Kusumam Joseph, social activist and coordinator of National Alliance for People’s Movement, said even the local bodies which are supposed to protect rivers are destroying them.
Citing the example of Annamanada panchayat, she said they had constructed a park and community hall by encroaching upon the Chalakkudi river. K Rajan, secretary, Kerala River Protection Council, said the violations are continuing unchecked across the state and there has been no step to protect the rivers. 
The River Management Fund is being misused and diverted for purchasing staff vehicles, he said. 
In Kozhikode the fund was used to purchase the vehicle and when we asked them how it could be used they said the vehicle was needed to check illegal activities. 

Tinku Biswal, Secretary, Water Resources Department, said there are sufficient funds, but they do no have a say in their utilisation. It is the Revenue Department which has to sanction the funds to the Irrigation Department. Revenue Principal Secretary P H Kurian said the fund had been used by the previous government to construct bridges.  However, a decision on how to utilise the funds will be decided at the meeting to be chaired by the Revenue Minister on August 28.There is a proposal to utilise the fund through Haritha Keralam mission, he said. 

Sorry state of affairs
The river bank violations continue unchecked across the state 
The fund is being misused and diverted for purchasing staff vehicles 
The fund was also used to construct bridges

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