PALAKKAD: Not a day passes by without politicians waxing eloquent about the need to save rivers for posterity, but it seems to end up as lip service. At a time when more money should be spent on rivers, it has been shockingly revealed the state government’s Finance Department has diverted the proceeds of the River Management Fund (RMF) to the tune of Rs 83 crore from the districts of Palakkad, Malappuram and Thrissur, through which Kerala’s second largest river Bharathapuzha flows.
Environmentalist K K Devadas of Kizhakekuttath House at Pudussery, Cheruthuruthy, Thrissur, had in a Right to Information query asked the Revenue Department from which all districts did the Finance Department divert the RMF and what was the district-wise follow-up.In reply, it was stated a sum of Rs 12,95,54,397 was diverted from the RMF of Palakkad district, Rs 50,18,84,992 of Malappuram and Rs 20,85,68,841 of Thrissur.
To another question as to whether the Revenue Department had initiated steps to recoup the funds and whether they were redeposited in the RMF, “no” was the reply.Devadas pointed out the RMF is collected by way of cess from the sand mining conducted in Bharathapuzha. The reply to the various questions also showed the Finance Ministry has been diverting funds without the Revenue Department’s permission.
Ministers and MLAs keep mum over RMF diversion
Bharathapuzha flows through Malappuram, Palakkad and Thrissur districts. In Malappuram, there was a sum of more than Rs 52 crore in the RMF which has been reduced to Rs 48.47 lakh. The RMF of Thrissur district had Rs 24 crore and the balance is nil. In Palakkad, there was a sum of Rs 13 crore and currently it has been reduced to less than Rs 42 lakh.
However, Devadas said there was no diversion of RMFs from other districts.Strangely, the ministers and MLAs of the three districts have failed to react to such misappropriation. The Kerala River Protection Act prohibits RMF diversion.
The environmentalist said the government should redeposit the diverted fund. It should be used to remove the shrubs and wild grass growing on the river bed, evict the encroachments and revive the streams flowing into the river.