Dam big trouble

Thiruvananthapuram may have had a narrow escape from the wrath of a cyclone, but looks like more trouble awaits the capital this summer.

Published: 11th December 2020 05:14 AM  |   Last Updated: 11th December 2020 05:14 AM   |  A+A-

When the shutters of  Neyyar dam were opened |B P Deepu

Express News Service

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Thiruvananthapuram may have had a narrow escape from the wrath of a cyclone, but looks like more trouble awaits the capital this summer. Kerala Water Authority (KWA) is already apprehensive of the district facing a drought.

The reason being the low water level in the reservoirs after the shutters were opened in haste following an India Meteorological Department warning that predicted heavy rainfall in the district in the wake of Cyclone Burevi. 

According to a senior KWA official, this year might see a repeat of the severe drought faced by the district in 2017. On Thursday, KWA resumed pumping from Peppara dam as the water level in Aruvikkara dam went below 46.3 metres as compared to its maximum capacity of 46.6 metres.

“Following the red alert, we stopped power generation at Peppara and decided to use the water at Aruvikkara. But now, the wate level has receded. We cannot pump any further from the dam,” said the official.

KWA is planning to send a letter to the district collector urging not to open the shutters of any of the dams in the district.  “We don’t think the district will get more rain. Even during the cyclone, the district hardly got any rain.

We have to be prepared. Only if we receive heavy rain in the next week or two, there is room for hope,” said the official. Before the cyclone warning, water level in Peppara dam, the main source of drinking water for the city, was 107.5 metres. 

“The authorities opened the shutters and the water level is now at 106.25 metres. If it doesn’t return to normal by December 31, we may have to expect severe drought and begin preparations for the same right away,” said the official.

During the water crisis of 2017, KWA brought water from Neyyar reservoir to Aruvikkara. “We might have to hire pumps and channel water from Kappukadu to Aruvikkara. With the current water level, we will only be able to ensure adequate supply till March-end,” said the official.

Currently, KWA supplies around 280 mld (million litre per day) to Thiruvananthapuram city limits 

Actual demand 361 MLD
The approximate number of water supply connections in city limits (as of 2019)
Palayam: 27385 (domestic: 21901)
Pattoor: 29531 (domestic: 24045)
Kowdiar: 20595 (domestic: 16699)
Peroorkada: 19047 (domestic: 16554)
Pongumoodu: 37196 (domestic: 32092)
Thirumala: 35652 (domestic: 31061)
Karamana: 38230 (domestic: 32597)
Kuriathy: 42479 (domestic: 36167)
Thiruvallam: 16009 (domestic: 14538)

75mld plant at Aruvikkara soon
Given the current water level, the KWA is apprehensive of operating the soon-to-be commissioned 75-mld plant at Aruvikkara. According to officials, water consumption is likely to go up once the plant becomes operational. “We expect the plant to be commissioned in the next few weeks. Then, we will have to pump an extra 75 mld of water from Aruvikkara reservoir. The requirement and consumption will also go up,” said the official. The plant is expected to cater to the city’s current demand and is supposed to benefit around 1.25 lakh people living in adjoining areas of the city including Aruvikkara, Vellanad and Karakulam panchayats. The plan is to divert around 15 mld to various panchayats.

‘Too soon to tell’
“We don’t see any probability for a drought in Thiruvananthapuram as of now. It is too early to anticipate it. The Central government has drawn up a drought manual and to officially declare a drought, we have to meet the conditions in the manual. As of now, the district is safe, as we have received good rainfall in most areas and surplus in a few others. The direction was to keep the water level in the reservoir at 80 to 84 per cent,” said a disaster management expert.

Neyyar Dam water treatment plant in limbo
The 120-mld water treatment plant being set up at Neyyar dam at an estimated cost of Rs 260 crore continues to be stuck in legal hurdles. A senior official of KWA said that a hearing has been scheduled for Friday at the Neyyattinkara Sub Court. “It is getting delayed because of back-to-back legal disputes posed by private parties claiming right over the land identified for the plant,” said the official. Around six acres of land belonging to the government has been identified for the project.

“Unfortunately, some people who had leased the land have moved the court,” the official said.  However, KWA is gearing up to award the tender for laying pipelines linking the water treatment plant at Neyyar and PTP Nagar. The project to lay the pipeline network is estimated at Rs 206 crore. “Seven parties came forward showing interest in the project. The vetting process is going on and we will soon award the work. The plan is to lay a 1.4 metre diametre pipeline network from Neyyar to PTP Nagar,” said the official.  The project is expected to benefit 10 lakh people residing in 100 wards of the corporation and an additional two lakh people in four adjacent panchayats.

The news that Cyclon Burevi had weakened came as a massive relief for Thiruvananthapuram residents last week, as a major disaster was averted. However, a red alert was declared by the IMD, warning of extreme rainfall and wind, which prompted the District Disaster Management Authority to open the shutters of the dams. Though this measure was in vain, it has now unleashed more trouble in the capital as water level in the city is terribly low in KWA reservoirs. Without sufficient summer rain, teh city might be looking at extreme water crisis this season


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