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Inter linking of Rivers and Pollution

Pampa Achencovil - Vaipar link Project - An Ecological Disaster


Pampa - Achencovil - Vaipar Link Project (PAVLP)

The Pampa - Achancovil - Vaipar Link Project (PAVLP) is one among the inter-basin water transfer schemes formulated by the NWDA for utilising the surplus water available in the river basin to another river basin facing acute water shortage. The Pampa Achancovil-Vaipar Link Project, proposes the diversion of 634Mm?of waters from Pampa and Achancovil rivers in Kerala to irrigate areas in the Vaipar river basin in Tamilnadu. According to the preliminary studies and detailed surveys done by NWDA, west flowing Pampa and Achancovil rivers of Kerala have a total surplus of 3127 Mm3 of water (75% dependability) after meeting all their present and future requirements.

Executive Summary

The Pampa-Achenkovil-Vaipar link proposal envisages diversion of 634 Mcm from the surplus water available in Pampa and Achenkovil rivers in Kerala to the deficit Vaippar basin in Tamil Nadu. Benefits from this proposal include irrigation to 91400 ha. in the drought prone districts of Tirunelveli, Chidambaranar and Kamarajar districts of Tamil Nadu, generation of peaking power of 500 MW through a pumped storage scheme, regulated release of 150 Mcm during lean period to Kerala etc. (See Map 1)

The Pampa-Achenkovil-Vaippar link project proposes 150 m high concrete dam on Pampa-Kallar, at Punnamedu, a 160 m high concrete dam on Achenkovil Kallar at Chittarmoozhy and 35 m high concrete gravity dam on Achenkovil river. The Punnamedu and Chittarmuzhi reserviors are interconnected by a 5m dia, 8 km long tunnel for diverting the water of Punnamedu reservoir to Achenkovil reservoir. Water from Achenkovil has to be pumped to Chittarmuzhi reservoir. The water from Achenkovil Kallar (Chittarmuzhi) reservoirs will be diverted through a 8m dia, 9 km long tunnel to cross the western ghats. The main canal will take off from the tunnel exit and run for a length of 50.68 km before reaching Alagar, a tributary of Vaippar river. (Mekkara Dam has been constructed by Tamil Nadu at Adaivinarcoil on Hanumanthodu, a tributary of Alagar. Peaking power station of 500 MW installed capacity is located at the toe of Achenkovil Kallar dam. Six mini hydropower plants with a cumulative installed capacity of 8.37 MW are located near the inlet of the inter connecting tunnel of Punnamedu and Achenkovil Kallar reservoir, toe of Achenkovil Kallar and Achenkovil dam and at four canal drops on the main canal.

The peaking power plants comprise of 5 units of 100 MW each. Three of the units are reversible type. 10 M.cm., of water released from Achenkovil Kallar reservoir, for power




generation during 6 hours peak load will be pumped back to Chittarmuzhi reservoir during the remaining period. The project will require 2283 MU of energy to lift the water to Achenkovil Kallar and 1095 MU and 19 MU respectively of energy will be generated during the peak hours and other periods. The total cost of the project including power required for pumping has been assessed, at 2000-01 level, as Rs. 2588 corers with 8% annual escalation.

Ecological Impacts

The Holy river Pampa is the third largest river in the State, 176 km. long with a catchment area of 2,235 Sq.Km. Pampa -Kallar is one of its tributaries which joins it at Vadasserrikkara. The Achancovil is also another river which joins Pampa at Veeyapuram near Harippad. These rivers are the integral components of ecological systems, and an inextricable part of the cultural, social, economical and spiritual lives of the people of Central Travancore. These rivers drain out to the Vembanadu Lake through Kuttanadu which is the rice bowl of the State.

Hydrological Parameter

River Drainage Area Monsoon flow Lean flow Total Utilisable yield

Km2 Mm3 Mm3 Mm3 Mm3


Pampa 2235 3221 740 3961 2700


Achancovil 1484 1410 607 2017 1101


Pamba and Achancovil rivers are considered as the life line of Central Travancore and the Vembanad wetland system including Kuttanad. The diversion of considerable amount of water from the rivers would ultimately spell the doom of the wet land ecology. The Vembanadu wetland system has been declared as a Ramsar site in view of their rich aquatic ecology. Large Scale diversion of water from the upper catchment areas would lead to an ecological socio-economic disaster in downstream areas especially Kuttanad. Salt water intrusion due to reduced flesh water flow to the lake will result in increased soil salinity which will ruin the productivity of the Kuttanad paddy growing areas, which in turn will result in desperate poverty since more than 60% of people of Kuttanad, depend on agriculture for their livelihoods.

The CWRDM, Kozhikode had conducted detailed studies on Rivers and the water requirements of the Vembanad wetland system. According to their findings, it is estimated that the total annual utilisable yield of the ten rivers draining into the Vembanad wetland system is to be 12,582 Mm3 where as the water demand in these river basins for domestic use, Irrigation, Industry and salinity exclusion will come to 22,268 M.m3. Achancovil and Pampa will have a deficit of fresh water of 459 M.m3., and 3,37Mm3 by 2051 AD. 4,745 Mm3 of water is required in the Pampa river basin itself for flushing out the present level of pollutants from the Vembanad wet land. The quality of water of the wetlands is important for the " Flora and Fauna" depending on it. The pollution level of the water sources in Kuttanad is alarmingly high and




further reduction in fresh water flows and subsequent changes in the Hydro Period will lead to irrepairable damages to the wet land system. Diversion of water from these rivers would dry up the Vembanad wetland system. The study points out clearly that Pampa and Achancovil are water deficit basins, contrary to the NWDA claim that these rivers have surplus waters. Experts say the skewed Hydrograph of any river does not indicate excess water in the basin. The monsoon flows flush the sediment load from the river bed and deposit fertile silt on the flood plain and thereby restore the dynamic equilibrium of the River. (See Photo 1)

Both the Pampa and Achancovil rivers become dry along many stretches during summer giving rise to an acute drought situation even on the river banks. The drinking water schemes in these rivers stop working on account of the depletion of water level during summer. The Central Water Commission (C.W.C) studies have found that the salinity intrusion in the Pampa has already reached beyond Edayaranmula a distance of over 40 kms. upstream, during summer, posing serious pollution problems.

All the reservoirs and tunnels proposed in the project is in the dense forest area in the Kerala State. The proposed project necessitates large scale deforestation and the proposed three reservoirs alone will submerge 2004 Ha of virgin forest. In addition, 10 Sq.km. of virgin forests in Konni and Achencovil Divisions will be destroyed, once the project materialises. The large scale deforestation in the rainfed area of Pamba and Achancovil will lead to the drying up of many perennial streams and wet lands in the Western Ghats. This will ultimately reduce water availability in the area and will lead to a disastress ecological impact, in the Central Travancore region.

These rivers are already in a dying stage due to over exploitation of river sand and other unscientific human interventions. As the summer progresses the river reduces to water pools in many places. The tail race water coming from Sabarigiri Power House at Moozhiar maintains the minimum lean flow in Pampa to some extent. Over the past few years there has been a considerable reduction, in even these lean season flows as a result of reduced strorage in the Sabarigiri reservoir as a consequence of reduced in flow.


Tamilnadu has successfully, diverted several west flowing streams originating from the western ghats. As a result Kerala is facing the bitter effects of diversion of water to Tamilnadu from upstream of Chalakkudy puzha, tributaries of Bharathaphuzha, Chaliyar etc.

The Pampa-Achancovil - Vaipar link project was included in the first batch of 8 pre-feasibility study reports of interlinking projects submitted to the Prime Minister, by the Task Force headed by Sri. Suresh Prabhu, constituted by the Government of India in accordance with the Hon. Supreme Court direction on 30-10-2002. Even though the Govt. of Kerala has opposed the proposal, it is understood from various statements of Sri. Suresh Prabhu and Sri. Arjun




Charan Sethi, the Water Resources Minister that, the Government of India is determined to go ahead with the proposed interlinking projects including PAVL project. The Task force has submitted its Action Plan II to the Prime Minister on 9.10.2003 in which, it suggested the imposition of Cess and duties on certain items to raise funds for the project estimated to the cost more than 5.6 lakh crores. Sri. Suresh Prabhu said that the gignatic project should be implemented irrespective of cost and time.

The proposed project was prepared under the wrong impression that the two rivers in Kerala has excess water. It is a sad reality that there is acute water scarcity even on the banks of these rivers during summer as well as many parts of Kuttanadu. Proposal to divert 664 million M3 of water from Pamba and Achancovil will certainly create serious water crisis in the central Travancore (Pathanamthitta , Alappuzha and Kottayam Dists.) region and Kuttanadu.

The mammooth Rs. 5,60,000 crore National River Interlinking Project is itself highly controversial and needs very detailed and informed public debate before it may or may not be implemented. However, even if one was to accept the argument that transfer of water from so-called water surplus areas to water scarce areas is desirable, it can be seen from the above presentation that there is no excess water to be had from the Pampa and Achencovil basins. In fact they will soon be water deficient basins. Therefore, the contention of the NWDA that the PAVLP is viable project is not based on the proper evaluation and so the project needs to be removed from the proposed inverlinking schemes.


Referencs :-

1. Project report of PAVLP (NWDA)

2. Wet lands and integrated River Basins Management C.W.R.D..M., Kozhikode

3. Environmental Degradation of River Pampa ( Pampa Parirakshana Samithy, Kozhencherry)

4. Various News Reports appeared in the Dailies and Dams, Rivers & People (SNDRP)



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