Thottappally spillway opened to prevent flooding in Kuttanad

Thottappally spillway opened to prevent flooding in Kuttanad
Kuttanad submerged under water during 2019 flood. File Photo
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Alappuzha: The Thottappally spillway breakwater in Alappuzha district was opened by the Water Resources Department to let water flow into the sea from the Kuttanad region.

The robotic arms of three earthmovers worked from 10 am till late evening to create a 30-m outlet.

The department undertook the work on a directive from District Collector A Alexander after many houses and low-lying areas got waterlogged in the Kuttanad region, which is below the mean sea level (MSL).

The authorities said dredging and clearing was done along 393 m near the spillway-cum-bridge too. All spillway shutters had been raised, sources said. The shutters would be downed when there is brackish water intrusion.

Official sources said this was the first time in over two decades that such a huge outlet was being created. During the 2019 flood, the width of the outlet was fixed at 25 m.

This time at least 540 trees were also axed. The dredging was done to a depth of four metre and it covered a width of 60 m. Water Resources Department Chief Engineer D. Biju supervised the operations.

The funds to commandeer the earthmovers were allocated from the District Collector’s disaster relief fund.

There was controversy regarding the work and the dredging.

Chief Engineer Biju said the sand-removal at Thottappally was done as per the instruction of the Chief Minister and under the direct supervision of the Chief Secretary. The work was completed in four months and executed in three shifts each day. The work was intended to ensure that water flowed in to the sea in the event of flooding in the low-lying areas. As of now, Kerala Minerals and Metals Ltd procured 44,000 sq m of sand. This would cost Rs 2.40 crore.”

The Thottappally spillway is considered as the drain-outlet of water from the Kuttanad region. The spillway, commissioned in 1955, splits the Thottappally lake with the freshwater part to the east and the saline part to the west.

The spillway was intended to ‘throw out’ 19,500 cubic metre of water into the sea in the event of a flood. But after construction, it was found that only 600 cubic metre of water could be let out. The main reasons were strong sea wind during rainy season and accumulation of sand on the western side.  

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