KOCHI: Kalvathy Canal in West Kochi has been left out of the Integrated Urban Regeneration and Water Transport System project being implemented by KMRL. The multi-crore project aims to renovate canals in Kochi
Jannet K, a resident of Tharebhagam, still remembers the terrible day when water gushed into her house during the downpour in 2019. Running out with her children, grabbing whatever she could from the house, she managed to find a shelter in a nearby anganwadi. Like her, several families living on the banks of Kalvathy Canal, have tragic stories of struggles to tell. Due to the administrative laxity of the Kochi Corporation over the years, the canal has become a synonym for rot, stench and a source of flooding.
“Even during a high tide, it becomes hard to figure out the difference between the road and canal. It became severe during the last monsoon. Politicians seem to remember us only during the elections and our complaints fall on deaf ears,” said Jannet.
Many cultural organisations have been demanding the development of the canal.
“When Integrated Urban Regeneration and Water Transport System project was announced, we hoped that the canal would also be a part of the project. Many areas in West Kochi get regularly flooded these days. Apart from allocating cleaning funds, Kochi Corporation hasn’t shown any sincere effort to develop the canal so far. Despite meeting several officials and writing memorandums over the years, nothing has changed. We are going to meet the new mayor soon and we hope things will change this time,” said Haneesh KK , president of Voice of Real Kochi, an organisation working for the development of West Kochi.
Earlier, a portion of the canal was desilted under the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (Amrut) Mission. Cleaning of the one-kilometre stretch and the construction of retaining walls were the only activities included in the project. Though it was proposed that the restoration of the canal be included in Cochin Smart Mission Limited’s (CSML) initial proposal, the introduction of the Netherlands-based agency Antea Nederland BV’s project to restore five city canals in collaboration with Kochi Metro Rail Limited’s (KMRL) became a hindrance.
“Though we put forth a proposal to set up a sewage treatment plant, a detailed assessment proved that the project alone won’t solve the issues with the canal. Due to protests over the 45 cents near Mehaboob park, we couldn’t move further. As all sewage and household wastes are being dumped into the canal, a mere cleaning drive won’t give results,” said a CSML official.
As only a small portion of the canal came under the CSML jurisdiction, the agency is now suggesting the entire canal redevelopment be handed over to IURWTS. “As elected representatives have requested the government to add the Kalvathy Canal under IURWTS, we have decided to hand over the project amount to the agency which will execute the restoration works,” said the official.
On the other hand, KMRL officials have clarified that a request has been given to the state government to include the canal under IURWTS. “After receiving several requests from residents, we forwarded those suggestions to the state government around a month ago. But we haven’t received any response yet,” said the official.
Recently, Kerala High Court directed CSML to submit its plan to develop Kalvathy Canal. As per the report from the Kerala Irrigation Department, the width of many canals in Kochi has shrunk by less than 1 metre. Waste and aquatic plants have stopped the flow of water, and illegal encroachments have killed small tributary canals that ensured the free flow of water from backwaters to the sea. A team comprising four assistant engineers, led by Ernakulam minor irrigation central circle superintending engineer R Baiju Chandran, prepared the report in response to the petition filed by the Kochi Residents Association coordination committee.
It demanded the waste and debris deposited in the canal be cleared, ensuring a lasting solution to water-logging in West Kochi. The District Disaster Management Authority and Coast Guard were also added as respondents in the case. Justice Devan Ramachandran demanded a report be filed after inspecting the canals. The court will reconsider the case on January 13.
Root of the problems
The 6.4km-long canal filled with plastic waste is under tahe ambit of the irrigation department. Along with the pollution from non-biodegradable waste, dirt from residential colonies like Kalvathy and Konthuruthy and areas like Thoppumpady Harbour are being dumped into the canal. Though the department remains indifferent to the issue, it cleaned the canal in the early 2000s, spending D2.5 crore from MLA fund.
As part of the Integrated Urban Regeneration and Water Transport System project by the Netherlands-based agency Antea Nederland BV, KMRL will revive six major canals in the city — Edappally, Chilavanoor, Thevara-Perandoor, Thevara, Market and Konthuruthy. The C1,364 crore project is expected to be completed within 42 months. During the first phase, the Edappally canal will be renovated at an estimated cost of C226 crore.
Under the canal-oriented development (COD), the metro agency will implement activities like cleaning, widening, deepening to maintain the cross-section for flood mitigation and navigation, bank protection and regular protective measures
KMRL plans intermodal connectivity with Kochi Metro, Water Metro and the road network
Metro agency also envisages developing water sports facilities and sports complexes
Special focus will be given to sewage management by laying primary sewer networks along the canals and secondary networks to individual households