700 people revive a poisoned, dead river in 70 days

June 1, 2017 6:30 pm Last Updated: June 1, 2017 6:30 pm


To look at the Kuttemperoor River today, you would never know that it sat as a stagnant, polluted cesspool for two decades.

The Kuttemperoor River is located in Kerala’s Alappuzha district in India, serving as a tributary to both the Achankovil and Pamba Rivers. Unfortunately, illegal construction and sand mining operations used the river to dump massive amounts of waste, killing off the aquatic life and bringing disease.

But thanks to the efforts of local villagers, it was recently brought back from the dead.

The Kuttemperoor River was dead for two decades.

Photo Credit: The News Minute

The first step for the villagers was to remove weeds and plastic that had been lodged firmly into the river bed. Next was to dig up the pollutants in the water and remove other debris that had served as a dumping ground for many years.

Seven hundred local villagers, most of whom were women, waded through the river for weeks. This was really not water at all, but a river of fluid filled with toxic waste. Those who dared walk in it risked catching deadly diseases.

Budhanoor Panchayat President, P. Viswambhara Panicker, said, “When water scarcity turned unbearable, we decided to revive the river. Initially many discouraged us saying it was a mere waste of money and energy. But we proved them all wrong.”


Photo Credit: Vivek Nair/HT Photo

Forty-five days into tremendous physical and emotional efforts to clean the river, the poisonous water began to show signs of revival. By seventy days, the river was flowing fully.

“Once we removed all waste river started recharging on its own and on forty-fifth day, the flow of the river started. For women folk, it was not just a work for money but it was a gargantuan task to revive a lifeline,” said Sanal Kumar, a volunteer with the National Rural Jobs Guarantee Scheme.

“I never thought Kuttemperoor will come to life again,” said Rajeevan, a 55-year-old driver who grew up near the river and is one of few who remembers what it used to be. Today, the river is filled with life. People are once again enjoying its beauty as their children now play on the banks with no fear of being contaminated.

Photo Credit: Vivek Nair/HT Photo

Some of the women who worked in the cleansing of the river even became ill. They were also constantly tested by a shortage of water and drought. They talk now of how that made their resolve to resurrect this body of water even stronger. They would not be defeated.

“I was down with dengue [a virus transmitted by mosquitoes, causing sudden fever and acute pains in the joints] for two weeks, but I returned to digging the day I was out of my bed,” said P. Geetha.

This is a story of victory and the power of what a group of people can do to reverse damage to the Earth from those who have caused it. Fortunately, Mother Nature was gracious and granted this group of Indian villagers the opportunity to show her loving kindness.


Source: Ramesh Babu from Hindustan Times, Alappuzha (Kerala)