It was a riverine system that once flowed proudly through the heart of Kerala’s capital city Thiruvananthapuram. Aamayizhanjanthodu, has now been reduced to a filthy canal, a waste dumping zone. The dumping so severe, that one can hardly see the stagnant water below.
Plastic waste, septic and medical waste, waste from meat markets, sludge from the construction sites, house hold and restaurant waste, almost everything finds its way into this water body. The dumping happens on a daily basis, mercilessly.
70-year-old Valsala lives on the banks of the canal and recalls how clear the water in Aamayizhanjanthodu was. “Even 10 years ago we used to wash our clothes and vessels in the canal. There was also fish here. Now we can’t even see the water in the canal,” she said.
Is cleaning up the canal on a regular basis possible? The City corporation, as per 2015 data, removed 60,000sqm of floating waste from the canal in three years, spending 12 crore rupees.
For people residing in the area, life is a living hell.
“Mosquitoes, flies and an unbearable stench, how can we live here? How can we live here? We are not even able to drink a glass of water as its stinks,” says Fazal, one of the residents.
Fazal, who stays in a rented house in Thampanoor area near the canal, says that his 75-year-old mother suffers from various illnesses.
Latha, another resident who lives in the bank of the canal says the windows in her house are shut permanently.
“We have not opened our windows for many years; we can’t cook inside or use the water from the nearby well. Waste from slaughter houses and from city hotels are dumped here. How do the authorities expect us to live here?” she asks.
“We have small children at home, it is a night mare to live here,” she added.
Residents are planning to begin a hunger strike demanding the government to solve the crisis.
Who should save the Aamayizhanjanthodu canal?
People continue to throw waste into the canal, to make things worse, many of the houses in the banks of the canal direct their toilet waste pipes into the water body.
“Many of the residents here are staying for rent. What can we do of the toilet waste is made to flow into the canal. Only Corporation authorities can stop the dumping of waste,” Latha said.
Three huge media organisations in Thiruvananthapuram also work from the banks of this canal, and residents allege that their canteen waste is also dumped into the canal.
"This is an issue of concern, but people should also make some efforts to solve the problem. People should stop throwing waste into water bodies. We will at the earliest, along with irrigation department (the canal comes under irrigation department) take up measures for cleaning," Thiruvananthapuram Mayor VK Prasanth told TNM.
But cleaning alone will not suffice. With Kerala facing an acute water shortage, there needs to be plans to rejuvenate water sources like the Aamayizhanjanthodu.
Pictures : Sreekesh Raveendran Nair