Unbridled encroachments had hampered the natural flow of three rivers in Munnar, reducing them to mere streams. However, they have been brought back to life now, thanks to the ‘Operation Smooth Flow’ project of the state water resources department.
Munnar is known for its pristine rivers besides the sprawling green tea gardens. The name of the hill town itself was derived from the Malayalam words ‘Moonnu Aar’, meaning three rivers, referring to its location of the confluence of the rivers — Nallathanni, Kannimala and Kundala. These rivers join together to form the Muthirapuzha river that flows through the heart of Munnar town. Unfortunately, decades-long encroachments on the river banks and the accumulation of silt had reduced their natural flow. The width of Muthirapuzha was reduced to 10m from its original 30m.
“Encroachment had resulted in the change in course of the Muthirapuzha, Kannimala and Nallathanni rivers. In Periyavara, where the flooded Kannimala river washed away the bridge connecting Munnar with nearby villages, the river width was only one metre. However, its length and breadth have been increased to 600m and 25m, respectively,” said an official with the major irrigation department. Similarly, in the bypass area of Munnar town, the width of the Muthirapuzha river has been increased from 10m to to 30m.
The flooding of Muthirapuzha in 2018 inundated the Old Munnar completely forcing at least 30 families to leave their houses. Following the 2018 flood, the water resources department submitted a report to the government seeking immediate steps to restore the rivers and prevent encroachment on the waterbody. Following this, the Muthirapuzha river and its tributaries were also included in the statewide river desilting and widening project ‘Operation Smooth Flow’.
The desilting of the rivers was done in three months using `55 lakh from the state disaster relief fund.
Seeing the face of Munnar change after the implementation of the project, the Munnar panchayat wrote a letter to the additional chief secretary, water resource department, appreciating the effort of the department officials in regaining the rivers back to their glory.