The fear of drought is very much rife in Kerala now after the all-consuming deluge in August. Several rivers in the state are apparently drying up fast, letting people to trundle across their sand beds at several stretches.
The Bharathapuzha, which had overflown in the August flood, is drying up. Sand beds have surfaced in the Chalakudy river which had sunk several parts of Thrissur district last month. The Periyar, which inundated many areas of Ernakulam district, is almost dry. In Triveni, where the Pampa river surged, water is just about a couple of feet high.
Water level in rivers has dipped as the landslide caused by torrential rains eroded the surface soil of land along their course and depositing it into the water bodies. This soil and silt mixed with sand in the river bed and on the banks, resulting in a concrete-like hard substance. This has caused a change in the physical, chemical and biological behaviour of the soil. It affects the productivity, nutrition and potency to absorb water. The flood has also deprived the soil of organisms, thus diminishing its capability to store water. That is an additional factor that has reduced surface water level both in rivers and nearby wells. This is a warning of a looming drought.
The state of different rivers:
In August, as the flood raged, Periyar overshot its banks everywhere, sinking several parts of Ernakulam district. Its water level at present, however, is 10 cm lower than the level in September last year.
More water than normal flows into the backwaters from it during the low tide. Water is also lost through Purapallikavu regulator-cum-bridge. Its 21 shutters, out of the total 24, cannot be closed as they are clogged with silt. One can walk cross the river and swim a bit at some spots here.
Periyar water level has dipped considerably from Vallakadavu to Aiyappan Kovil after the release of water from Mullaperiyar dam was halted. The river dried up from Cheruthoni to Lower Periyar after Cheruthoni dam shutters were closed. Normally, water flows at this stretch up to the beginning of summer months.
The famed river flows like a stream, much like in summer. Sand has surfaced in areas which do not have dykes. Soil has been washed away at the iron dyke that links Painkulam Vazhalipadam-Mannaoor shores, and at the new dyke at Cheruthuruthi as water level dropped significantly. Even the water flow has been arrested in Shoranur. Evacuations were ordered in these areas during the flood as the river was in spate.
The river currently has water as it was found during December-January. The sand bed has surfaced as in summer. Water level is below two feet even at Triveni. The Pampa, which used to flow full, is keeping to a side. Water level has gone down by a feet at Mitrapuzhakadavu and Parakkadavu in Chengannur.
Sand is visible in many parts of the river that had inundated Thrissur district extensively. At Aranjali, where the river gushed in up to 5 km on to the shore, a sand bed has appeared as the river dried up. Water level has reduced after the thinning of flow from dams to the river. Huge pits that were formed during the floods also likely contributed to this. Water now flows only through pits that were formed by sand erosion and earlier mining.
Water has receded in Achankovil, Manimala and Kallada rivers and their banks are clear now. There is a huge drop in water at the meeting point of Kanniyar and Nallathanniyar in Munnar, where flooding was massive.
Water level is dipping in Kallada river, where the level had risen significantly when the Thenmala Parappar dam in Kollam district was opened. The Kallada river level is now two feet lower than the sea.
Water is low in the Sasthamkotta lake too. The normal water level near Thannermukkam bund in Vembanad lake is 0.9 metres, but it had risen to 2.11 m during the flood. Now the level is 0.7 m, 20 cm less than the normal level.
In Kozhikode, water is draining away in Iruvanjipuzha, Chaliyar, Cherupuzha and Poonoor rivers. Water dipped as much as seven feet at Thiroorangadi and Parappanangadi areas around the Kadalundi river.
The Baveli and Bara rivers in Kannur district are as dry as they were found in summer. The rivers had got diverted after landslides in August. In Karuvannur river, Thrissur, which had overshot its banks in the flood, water has thinned.