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Officials clueless as Periyar turns black again

Local activists say that fish kill occurred in the river on Thursday morning

Streaks and swirls of black dominated the Periyar immediately downstream of the Pathalam regulator-cum-bridge on Thursday.

The colour change was first spotted by local people in the morning. Even around 11 a.m., distinct streaks of black, in what appeared to be a turbid discharge leaking from the shutters of the regulator, were apparent at three spots below the regulator bridge, one near its western bank and two others near the middle.

However, in a span of two hours, the streak near the western bank became less distinct as it began merging into the water and flowed downstream, aided also by the withdrawing tide. At the same time, there was no sign of change in colour in the water upstream of the regulator bridge other than faint films of oil floating over water as usual.

While colour changes are an occasional phenomenon both upstream and downstream of the bridge, such distinct and continuously flowing streaks had not been noticed before, said Maheshkumar V.B., an activist with ‘Janajagratha’ (a local environmental protection and social awareness collective). He has been constantly monitoring colour changes on this stretch of the river.

‘No leak’

Water could be heard flowing through at least four shutters of the regulator bridge. But there is no leak in the shutters, claimed Balu Verghese, assistant executive engineer (irrigation sub division), Irrigation Department, Aluva.

Local activists claimed that fish kill had occurred in the morning, but the dead fish had flowed downstream. More than 30 birds of prey and numerous terns were also found flying continuously over the river stretch downstream of the regulator bridge to catch fish that rose to the surface.

“We have been seeing such colour changes for many years now,” said Binu Kumar (name changed), a resident of Eloor.

“Two of the most polluting industries have been shut, and yet fish kills and colour changes are common. Why is action not being taken against the other large industry here?” he asked.

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