Sunday, 7 August 2011

Development vs Environment

Actioni contrariam semper et æqualem esse reactionem: sive corporum duorum actiones in se mutuo semper esse æquales et in partes contrarias dirigi.

So spells out Newton’s 3rd law of motion, also equally valid in a tug of war between the government and the residents bordering the Veli Lake in Trivandrum district.

It all centers around the construction of a 220-metre long and 100-metre wide ‘breakwater’ at the mouth of the Veli estuary, designed as a flood control scheme under the Rs 12 crore ‘Kerala Sustainable Urban Development Project’. The general aim is to prevent the seasonal formation of a sandbar at the estuary, thus ensuring a continuous flow of water (from Veli Lake, the interconnected Aakulam Lake, feeder canals viz. Parvathy Puthanar, Amayizhanjan, and Chakka, and rivers viz. Karamana and Killi) into the Arabian Sea. The enumerated benefits are:
-control of flooding in the city, especially during the rainy season,
-addressing the rampant problem of aquatic weeds in the Veli and Aakulam lakes,
-removal of water stagnation in the lake, thus improving water quality,
-enabling fishing even during storms (!!!)
-boosting the development of the Veli tourist village.

Local groups are reluctant to view these as ‘benefits’. The Veli and Aakulam lakes (and their feeder canals and rivers) are already plagued by severe water pollution, thanks to garbage dumping and waste water (both domestic and commercial- including hospitals and factories). Furthermore, factories empty their chemical effluents (usually, untreated) either into the lake (and its feeder canals), the estuary, or into the nearby sea. They are concerned that:
-the breakwater would pollute the sea more since many would take advantage of an easy disposal of effluents and waste water,
-this would affect the fish population and, consequently, jeopardise the livelihood of local fishermen,
-scum and solid waste would be deposited on the beaches, affecting the tourism.

Usually, when there is a will (i.e. the government’s), there’s a way. It remains to be seen how this issue will be resolved. The pale yellow patch are the effluents from the factories, thoughtfully dumped into the sea.

Sources: local newspapers


David said...

An interesting dilemma, the law of unintended consequences at work again. Are there any plans for water treatment works?

Anonymous said...

As far as I know (my source from last week being a high ranking official in the relevant governmental department), the factories are obliged to follow governmental regulations regarding the nature/composition of effluents. These are usually flouted since the consequences (aka fines) can be easily addressed through various (underhand) methods. As for the domestic wastewater and runoffs of floods, this would require a revamp of the drainage/sewage system in the district.

The water from these lakes are not utilised for the drinking water of the city. Most of its users are those who live in the locality and who have no (or limited) access to the city's drinking water system.

The perils of a developing nation.



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