The second phase of Killiyar River cleaning took place in Thiruvananthapuram on Friday with massive participation. Killiyar, a tributary of Karamana River, originates from Panavur in Nedumangad, and flows through Thiruvananthapuram city.
The Killiyar Cleaning Mission began in 2018 after a detailed survey. Its second phase named 'Karakaviyathe Killiyar' (Killiyar without overflow) began at 8 am on Friday and lasted till afternoon. It was allocated a budget of Rs 50 lakh. According to Tourism Minister Kadakampally Surendran, who participated in the drive, 25,000 people volunteered to clean up the river in the second phase.
The volunteers included senior citizens, college and school students. National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) scheme workers, and more than 150 policemen, and fire safety personnel also joined the cleaning drive.
"This was a stream where we once we used to take bath and wash clothes. We children played here as children. Killiyar is also our childhood memories. So, it was a personal wish that it should be cleaned," 65-year-old Sarojini, a volunteer said.
"Fishing, bathing and playing in Killiyar was a part of our lives once. We were pained watching it get ruined. We will do anything to get it back," Rajan, another volunteer said.
Finance Minister T M Thomas Isaac, Tourism Minister Kadakampally Surendran, Forest Minister K Raju, Minister Kadannapally Ramachnadran, Corporation Mayor K Sreekumar and District Collector Gopalakrishnan also participated in the cleaning drive at different places.
"Apart from the 22-km stretch of the river from Karinjathi to Vazhayila, we also cleaned the associated streams and small rivulets this time. It was a massive drive. We will also be following up the cleaning drive on regular basis so that the river will can flow without any hurdles. Earlier, the water was black in color and also had a foul smell. But after the first phase of cleaning, that changed," Nedumangad Panchayat President B Biju told TNM.
Addressing the volunteers at the cleaning drive, Kadakampally Surendran called the Killiyar cleaning mission one of the model projects of the government.
"We have also cleaned 31 streams associated with Killiyar. We have started the second phase of the cleaning in corporation limits using machines. Next phase will include even more public participation," Mayor Sreekumar told media. "Coir geotextiles (that are commonly used for controlling soil erosion) will be used to protect the banks," he added.
Challenges in city limits
In both 2019-20 and 2020-21 budget presentations, Finance Minister Thomas Isaac had said that the Killiyar cleaning mission is great model of river rejuvenation in Kerala. The drive had started after a detailed survey. However, while these missions see large participation, maintaining the river after that has been a problem, especially in the city limits.
For instance, around 22-km stretch of Killiyar River, that flows through Nedumangad Panchayat till Vazhayila, remained mostly clean after the first phase of the cleaning. But the water body in the city limits once again turned to waste dumping yard.
"At midnight people come in vehicles, and largely dump slaughter waste and other market waste here. We are struggling to live here as the smell is unbearable and there are many mosquitoes. Apart from the slaughter waste, large quantity of plastic is also being dumped in the river," Mini, a resident near Attukal, said.
Latha, who runs a shop near Edappazhinji, says that Killiyar River in the region still has the foul smell and market waste gets dumped in to it frequently. "People dump the waste again even if it has been cleaned. There should be a proper surveillance to check the waste dumping, especially from the markets," she said.
On Wednesday, the United Democratic Front councilors had held a protest in Thiruvananthapuram city regarding the delay in starting the second phase of cleaning. The councilors had alleged that cleaning was done properly in the first phase, and that the drainage pipes that lead to the river were not closed.