Hyacinth bring boats to a halt

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Low salinity levels after floods and nutrient-loaded water spur growth

Blankets of thick, lush-green leaves with lavender flowers that float in Vembanad Lake and adjoining rivers in Kottayam have thrown the water transport system in the region into complete disarray.

According to officials with the State Water Transport Department (SWTD), the all-pervading water hyacinth has forced them to either cancel or cut short most of the services between Kottayam and Alappuzha. The disruptions have brought the lives of those residing along the backwaters of the district to a standstill. Complete restoration of operations is likely only after clearing the weeds.

Hidden debris

“The situation is particularly grave in areas beyond R Block and it is up to the local bodies concerned to take necessary action. Our boats just cannot move through these plants as it damages the shaft or leaf of the boat engines, forcing us to withdraw a boat from another sector and ferry the stranded commuters,” explained Sathyan, Traffic Superintendent, SWTD.

Similarly, logs or other debris are often hidden within the weeds and the boat crew will not be able to identify such hazards during the service.

“Besides the clearing of weeds, there is an urgent need to deepen some stretches of the route at Pallithodu and Alappuzha,” he added.

Of the three boats operating in the Kottayam-Alappuzha sector, one reaches Kottayam town via Pallam while the other two wind up their operations at the Kanjiram jetty in Thiruvarppu owing to an explosion of hyacinth in the Kodoor river. The unprecedented proliferation of the aquatic plant this summer is attributed to an unwieldy combination of low salinity levels after last year’s floods and nutrient-loaded water.

Upset over the unprecedented cancellations of services, students of a school in the Kanjiram region have now approached the district administration with a request to clear the weeds.

Meanwhile, the weeds have affected transporting of drinking water to the Upper Kuttanad area and movement of paddy from fields, in addition to the tourism and fisheries sectors.

An official with the Kottayam municipality said steps would soon be taken to clear the aquatic plants that chocked the Kodoor river.

Similarly, the Thiruvarppu grama panchayath has approached the Kottayam district panchayat to grant the hyacinth- shredder machine in its possession on lease.

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