By Vinod Nedumudy
While elders turn their back on the crucial issue of conserving water, children show the way to larger society. The state of Kerala in India, which is called the God’s Own Country for its picturesque landscape, is facing one of the severest droughts in its history with the last monsoon season letting it down giving sparse rains. Yet, the state witnesses indifferent attitude from responsible authorities towards water conservation while young children come out to spread the message of keeping pristine water sources intact. Two key events took place in March second week which highlighted this ahead of the World Water Day.
The two contrasting attitudes were exposed in Kochi, the business capital of Kerala. On the one hand the higher-ups at Cochin Port Trust, the maritime gateway to Peninsular India, which is headquartered at the picturesque Willingdon Island in Kochi, resorted to filling up a large rainwater harvesting unit built by the civic body Kochi Corporation on the island by spending Indian Rupees 7 lakh, it was reported in the local media.
The rain water harvesting unit had a length of 15 metre and a width of 12 metre and was in the shape of a pond. It was created to cater to the drinking water needs of those in the area. Interestingly the Kochi Corporation councilor from the area was reported as saying that the project was not opposed by the CPT authorities when it was launched. But they later came out to forcibly fill the pond. This resulted not only in the loss of Rs 7 lakh to the exchequer but also a precious source for drinking water to the city. Despite protests from the councilor and several organizations, the CPT, a central government supported body, is sticking to its posture.
However, giving enough signs that all hopes are not lost, over 20 students of Kuttamassery Government High School, near Aluva, some 17 km from Kochi city, who were led by four teachers and the Parent-Teacher Association president and also environmentalist Prof S Seetharaman, came out with a long art procession from the school on March 9 through the heart of the city covering more than 25 kilometres to spread the message of conserving drinking water sources.
Their approach was to attract the public and create awareness on the crucial situation of scarcity of drinking water in the once rain rich Kerala state. Through ‘Ottam Thullal’ (a traditional art form) a few of them performed, they highlighted how most of the drinking water sources are polluted by the public, industries, local bodies etc. They also depicted how the major drinking water source of the city, the Periyar river, has how been polluted.
The students described that most of the wet lands, mangroves, rivulet, paddy fields, small hills which are repositories of water has been mercilessly destroyed nowadays in the name of development.
They emphasized that harvesting of rain water must be a practice to combat scarcity of water. The alarming mosquito menace also was highlighted.