For those well acquainted with Arundhati Roy’s magnum opus, “God of Small Things,” the name, Meenachil, would instantly ring a bell.
Flowing by the banks of Aymanam, the rustic village immortalised by Roy, the river had been sustaining the needs of people since the first settlement sprung up on its shore.
However, indiscriminate pollution, sand mining and illegal encroachments had resulted in the slow death of Meenachil and its countless tributaries.
Help came to Meenachil in the form of Green Fraternity, a non-profit organisation.
A little over a year ago, the NGO had quietly spearheaded an environmental revolution as a last bid to save Meenachil and its tributaries, Meenanthara and Kodoor, whose existence had trickled down to tiny threads of polluted water.
This, in turn, had destroyed the aquatic life and the groundwater table, besides ruining the paddy fields in the vicinity.
The blueprint for the Meenachil-Meenanthara-Kodoor River Restoration Project was chalked down to make a riverine system of over 40 km of canals, streams and rivulets free of all types of waste, and resuscitating it back to life.
Although initially, the organisation was entirely on its own, apart from a few residents who had joined them out of concern, soon enough, hundreds of motivated volunteers joined them in their environmental crusade and cleared over 3-4 km of encroached land and blockades between rivulets and their parent rivers.
In a span of over half a year, Meenachil was relinked with its tributaries, and as a result, many previously dead rivulets were breathed back to life, and the groundwater table was amply restored to transform fallow paddy farms to a cultivation-worthy state, as reported by The Week.
The anniversary of the project is now near, and the green crusaders are taking the intervention forward in the form of a people’s survey that will shed light on the extent of pollution in water bodies across Kottayam district.
“The survey is being taken up as a pilot project, and pollution at the sources of the three rivers will be identified and cleansed through people’s involvement. The experience will be analysed for a state-wide endeavour in the coming days,” Anil Kumar, an advocate and an environmentalist who had a key role in pushing the project forward, said to The Hindu.
Starting with the placement of complaint boxes across all gram panchayats at the ward level on May 2, the initiative will see thousands of people heading to the rivers mentioned above (and other water bodies) to inspect their levels of pollution and identify the sources. If the need arises, they have also planned to initiate the basic cleaning of the aquifers.
According to Kumar, the people on the field would include people’s representatives, government officials, the Janamaithri police, residents’ associations, political parties, and leaders of social, religious, youth and women’s organisations across the district, who envision to clean at least one water body in every gram panchayat on the day, and ensure that all provisions such action plans, required tools and transport are sourced locally.
One of the major areas of focus under the survey would involve municipal drainage systems and their misuse—these systems often ending up being trashed with all types of waste materials by the public.
The surveyors intend to present the final report to the concerned local authorities by May 18, and the panchayats will publish and hand over these over to the Department of Health after review by May 20.
Having restored their riverine way of life, these folks now look forward to a series of harvest festivals at the paddy fields that became fertile following their relentless efforts. “It gives us hope and confidence that the journey we have taken up is in the right direction,” Kumar added.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)