Mannuthy: As Kerala heads to another summer marked in all likelihood by intense water shortage, the Peechi Dam outside Thrissur district of Kerala, presents a sorry picture of neglect by authorities. Two out of its four shutters remain stuck for the last five months, resulting in wastage of water.
Though all the shutters of the dam were opened on August 15, 2019 during the floods, three shutters couldn't be shut as they were jammed. According to officials, the alignment of the shutter beadings were damaged in the heavy flow of water. Later, the dam authorities attempted to close the shutters again when the water level in the reservoir fell. But water is leaking considerably from two shutters and partially from one.
When these shutters suffered damage during 2018 floods, they were repaired before the monsoon in 2019 spending Rs 8 lakh. Now all that can be done is to wait for the water level to fall below the level of the shutters.
The dam, which was opened in 1957 for irrigation, has also been relied on for drinking water needs.
Moreover, exposing the neglect by authorities, the condition of a government quarters at Peechi is in a pitiable state. Of the 150 quarters built to accommodate the employees of the Kerala Engineering Research Institute, a mere 30 are habitable now, while all the remaining ones have crumbled due to age. In fact, the entire area has been covered by weeds and vegetation for several years now. Though power has changed hands many times in Kerala, no government has shown interest in building new quarters or apartments in place of the dilapidated houses.
The extent of unutilided government land in Peechi under the Water Resources Department, Fisheries Department and Kerala Water Authority is around 100 acres. When a government college was allotted to Ollur Assembly constituency, it was suggested that it could be set up on this land. However, the authorities later decided to acquire private property for the purpose.
The quarters comes under the state Water Resources Department.
Closed guest houses
The government owns two guest houses in Peechi -- the Peechi House and the Rest House. Visitors can stay in Peechi House but the procedure to occupy the rooms is cumbersome; an application has to be submitted at the office of the Water Resources Department in Peechi and the room rent paid in advance as challan at the Government Treasury in Thrissur town. In other words, even though Peechi House has VIP rooms and modern facilities, the authorities are not interested in hosting travellers there.
Meanwhile, the Rest House has four large rooms but the facility is dysfunctional for the last five years. Some time ago, it was spruced up spending Rs 20 lakh but remains closed citing lack of an electricity connection.
Lacklustre local fest
The Peechi Festival too has been hit by official apathy.
The first Peechi festival was organised in 2009 during the Christmas-New Year season and it was an initiative of the then legislator Rajaji Mathew Thomas. Later, the festival took place successfully for three consecutive years when M P Vincent was the MLA.
A vibrant celebration with cultural programmes and seminars, the festival attracted a large number of visitors. An entry fee of Rs 10 person was charged and the daily collection those days amounted to Rs 1-1.5 lakh. However, during this Christmas-New Year season, the total amount received was a mere Rs 4 lakh, that too after doubling the entry fee.
Tourists were likely put off by the lack of illumination at the dam and its surroundings, those in the know alleged.