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INTRODUCTION The river Periyar, the longest river of the state is considered to be the life line of Central Kerala. It originates from the Sivagiri peaks of Sundaramala in Tamil Nadu. The total length is about 300Kms with a catchment area of 5396Sq Kms. During its journey to Arabian Sea at Cochin the river is enriched with water of minor tributaries like Mullayar, Perunthuraiar, Chinnar, Cheruthony, Kattappanayar and Edamalayar at different junctures. Periyar has been performing a pivotal role in shaping the economic prospects of Kerala, as it helps in power generation, domestic water supply, irrigation, tourism, industrial production, collection of various inorganic resources and fisheries. However, as in the case of many other inland water bodies, River Periyar is gradually undergoing ecologicaldegradation throughout its course of flow due to various anthropogenic stresses, which include indiscriminate deforestation, domestic-agricultural- industrial water pollution, excessive exploitation of resources, large scale sand mining, various interferences in the flow of water etc.

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POLLUTION IN PERIYAR Sources of pollution in Periyar River can be categorized as • Sewage and garbage • Agricultural run-off • Industrial pollution

Sewage and Garbage The river directly receives civic effluents from townships like Vandiperiyar, Upputhara, Cheruthony, Munnar, Malayattoor, Kalady, Perumbavoor, Neriamangalam, Aluva and Paravur. None of these local bodies possess proper sewage treatment facility. In the case of Cochin corporation sewage treatment system is inadequate and the untreated organic and inorganic refuse is being discharged into the backwaters Waste from Aluva Market making its way to Periyar

Agricultural Run-off Major crops being cultivated in the river basin includes rice, coconut, arecanut, banana, rubber, vegetables etc. The upper reaches of the basin is utilized for plantation crops like tea, coffee, cardamom and rubber. This intensive agricultural practice all along the banks and watershed area has been enriching the river water with huge amounts of pesticides and fertilizers especially during surface run off in the rainy season. Besides, loosening of surface soil and removal of vegetation from catchment area generates problems related to soil erosion and siltation.

Industrial Pollution Industrial pollution poise the most serious threat to the riverine ecosystem in lower reaches of Periyar. The Eloor-Edayar region, about 20 km from where the river meets the Arabian Sea, is the industrial hub of Kochi, the commercial capital of Kerala and is home to Kerala’s largest industrial cluster, the Udyogamandal Industrial Estate . There are about 250 industries including the prominent ones like Fertilizers and Chemicals Travancore Ltd. (FACT), Hindustan Insecticides Ltd (HIL), Indian Rare Earths Ltd etc . They Page | 3

manufacture a range of chemicals--petrochemical products, pesticides, rare-earth elements, rubber processing chemicals, fertilisers, zinc/chrome products and leather products. Many of these industries are 50 years old and employ highly polluting technologies. The industries take large amounts of fresh water from the Periyar and in turn discharge concentrated toxic effluents after little treatment. This has led to large-scale destruction of fish in the river and has done extensive damage to the paddy fields and other farmlands in the region. There are more than 30 unauthorised effluent pipes spewing toxins straight into the river from the industry. Air emissions range from acid mists to sulphur dioxide, hydrogen Sulphide, Ammonia and Chlorine gas. Wells and ponds in the region are severely contaminated. According to eco-activists, the 247 factories in the area together discharge 173 million litres of effluent-filled water into the Periyar every day, resulting in higher incidence of ailments like bronchitis, asthma and even cancer for users.

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STUDY OF INDUSTRIAL POLLUTION IN ELOOR REGION Green Peace Reports (1999, 2003) describe Eloor industrial area as one of the most vulnerable industrially polluted “hot spots” in the world. Recently they have appointed a full time river keeper to regularly monitor the industrial pollution load of river Periyar. “We used to take water from the river for drinking, bathing and washing. But now we are scared even to touch that water. We all depend on the piped water supply for everything” says Radhika, a resident of the ward one in the panchayat.

PAST • The full fledged river waters of Periyar including the lower reaches up to backwaters(About 15-20Kms into the river from seaward end) once supported very rich biodiversity including various types of fin fishes and shell fishes of high economic value. • Formerly, the river in this region was full of life with innumerable population of aquatic flora and fauna representing various tropic levels which constituted a vibrant tropical aquatic system • Fishery resources from this region was major means for income for thousands of families belonging to this area and there was absolutely no scarcity of fish as their prime food item

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PRESENT • The large scale

industrialization and the consequent effluent discharge has made this part of the river almost lifeless or dead • Now-a-days the river has become a sewage canal carrying a myriad of hazardous and toxic industry-borne pollutants • At present, fishery from this region is gradually vanishing; the different types of gears (Chinese net, cast net, dip net, gill net etc.) and crafts which were regularly operating in this area have almost disappeared • Thousands of people are deprived of their conventional labour hood • The poor availability of fish leads to malnutrition and related health problems in economically weaker section of the people inhabiting here • Massive destruction of fauna and flora, including large scale fish kills, has become routine where the river resembles a graveyard of all types of biotic forms • The productivity at various levels seems to be critically shattered The study Status of Human Health at Eloor Industrial Estate, Kerala, points out that in comparison to the less polluted Pindimana village on the banks of the same river in the same district, the chances that residents of Eloor Gram Panchayat will contract Cancer are 2.85 times higher. Children are 2.63 times at higher risk of malformation due to congenital and Chromosomal aberrations. Chances that children may die due to birth defects have increased 3.8 times higher. Death due to Bronchitis at Eloor is up by 3.4 times. Deaths due to Asthma are up by 2.2 times The Hindustan Insecticides Limited (HIL), a Government of India enterprise, has been manufacturing pesticides including DDT and Endosulfan (both banned) at its Eloor plant since 1956. The plant located adjacent to a wetland apparently discharges its effluents to an open creek. The creek known as ‘Kuzhikkandam Thodu’, carrying highly contaminated water and draining into the River Periyar. Merchem Limited, a private firm which makes rubber chemicals and public-sector undertaking Fertilisers and Chemicals Travancore Ltd are among the other big polluters contributing to Kuzhikandam Thodu. On 10.4.1990, there was fire in this stream due to the burning of toluene, which was discharged from Hindustan Insecticides Ltd. Page | 7

Experimental Study AIM: To get a firsthand experience and compare the intensity of the Pollution at various sites along the course of periyar river.

Materials/ Facilities Required: Five 2L Plastic Containers, Water Quality Testing Laboratory, Map of Periyar River Basin, Transportation across Sampling Sites.

Procedure: The selected sites are visited along the flow of the river. The sampling container is rinsed in the river water first and the samples are collected in the 2 L Plastic Containers and labelled with time, date, and site of sampling. The collected samples were tested by a Pollution Control Board approved laboratory for the following factors which we felt represented pollutions scales.

1. Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) It is the amount of oxygen that would be consumed if all the organic matter in one litre of water was oxidized by bacteria. The BOD test measures the rate of uptake of oxygen by the micro-organisms in a sample of water, and thus it is indirectly a measure of organic matter present in the water. The greater the BOD of water, the more its polluting potential.

2. Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) It is the term used to describe the inorganic salts and small amounts of organic matter present in solution in water. The principal constituents are usually calcium, magnesium, sodium, and potassium cations and carbonate, hydrogen carbonate, chloride, sulphate, and nitrate anions. TDS in water supplies originate from natural sources, sewage, urban and agricultural run-off and industrial wastewater.

3. Total Hardness It the combined mass of carbonates of calcium and magnesium per unit volume of water. Water with a high level of hardness could cause serious problems in industrial settings causing costly failures in components like cooling towers, boilers and other equipment that contains or processes water. Low levels of Hardness could make the water corrosive and more aggressive

4. pH It is a measure of the acidity or basicity of an aqueous solution. Solutions with a pH less than 7 are said to be acidic and solutions with a pH greater than 7 are basic or alkaline. Pure water has a pH very close to 7. Most organisms have adapted to life in water of a specific pH and may die if it changes even slightly. Page | 8

Site-1: IDUKKI- “Kallarkutty Reservoir” DATE: 07/10/14

TIME: 02:30 P.M

COLLECTOR: Nithin Abraham Jacob

The sample from Kallarkutty Reservoir represents the waters of periyar, early in its course. Visible Indications: The water was relatively clean in sight. Site -2: KALADY- “Muthala Kadavu” DATE: 04/10/14

TIME: 11:35 AM


Muthala Kadavu, which has a legend attached to its name, is adjacent to the holy birth place of Sree Sankaracharya at Kalady and shows how the Periyar River has influenced the cultures and believes of those living on its banks. Visible Indications: The river water was visibly clean and apparently free from significant pollution as the local people utilized the water for bathing and cleaning The Sample was collected by a native who was bathing in the river. Site-3: ALUVA - “Adhwaitha Asramam” DATE: 04/10/14

TIME: 02:10 PM


Aluva, a major commercial city, thrives on the bank of periyar. Adhwaitha Asram is on the opposite shore of the historically and traditionally significant Aluva Manappuram. Here the river is subjected to the consequences of the rapid urbanization of aluva city and the waste discharge from its markets and industries. Page | 9

But the pollution level is comparatively low and apparently tolerable, as people on the river banks, still utilize the river for bathing purposes. The sample was taken at a convenient location prior to the aluva market by a native who was taking a bath. The people were curious about our sampling and enquired

whether we were collecting it as “Holy Water” implying that people still considered the river in this region, unpolluted. Visible Indications: The water did not show any significant indications of pollution, though slightly discoloured. Site-4: ELOOR- “Kuzhikandam Thodu” DATE: 04/10/14

TIME: 01:20 PM

COLLECTOR: Govind Jeevan

As discussed earlier, Eloor is the region where intense pollution of periyar takes place. The Kuzhikandam Thodu has been in the news repeatedly. It is a creek which carries highly contaminated water discharged from factories like HIL, Merchem, FACT etc and it drains into the River Periyar polluting its waters..

The locals are well aware of the gravity of the pollution in their river and were receptive to us. It seems sampling the river for pollution is a common thing, and it is the residents themselves that advised us to take samples from the malicious and now infamous “Kuzhikandam Thodu”. The people were even well versed with the names of the various companies responsible for the polluted water of the creek.

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“Its quite difficult to live beside this creek knowing that such a lot of harmful chemicals are flowing through it daily. Companies like Merchem, HIL, IRL are the ones who discharge the dangerous chemicals into this creek” Says one of the residents we met near the creek. Visible Indications: The water looked terribly contaminated and untouchable. It was very turbid and disgusting. Site-5: ELOOR- “Ferry” DATE: 04/10/14

TIME: 01:40 PM

COLLECTOR: Allen Christo Santi

The sample from Eloor Ferry represents the waters of periyar towards the end of its flow. The Eloor people recall the memory of the good old days when the periyaar used to give them a good harvest of fish and clean water for their daily needs. But now, edible fish is rare, and those caught are poisoned by the contaminated water they live in. Dead Fish floating in the river was a repeated occurrence, and the authorities aren’t taking sufficient actions to protect the river and its eco system. Unlike the earlier sites, here no one was seen bathing or even touching the river water for any purposes, leave alone bathing. Visible Indications: The water was significantly discoloured compared to the earlier periyar sites we sampled. Page | 11

Among other things, we also noted near Eloor Ferry, an excessive growth of the world’s most problematic aquatic weed, Water Hyacinth ( Eichhornia crassipes ), a.k.a Terror Of Bengal, which causes imbalance in the ecosystem of the periyar river body.

Another notable factor seen at FACT Junction, Eloor was the LIVE AIR/WATER POLLUTION DISPLAY Board set up by the pollution control board. The data displayed indicated that all the parameters were within the safe limits. Though that may not be completely true, the electronic board remains as a good effort to create awareness among the people of the pollution in their river

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Observations and Analysis: Parameter

Max. Limit

Kalarkutty Reservoir 7







Kuzhikandam Thodu 6.13



Dissolved Solids







Total Hardness
















Not tested

Not tested

Not tested

Not tested


-Beyond Limit

- Tolerable Level

- Ideal Level


7 6.8 6.6 6.4 6.2 6 5.8 5.6

Kalarkutty Kalady Aluva Eloor Kuzhikandam

Dissolved Solids 3500 3000 2500 2000 1500 1000 500 0 Dissolved Solids

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Total Hardness

Kalarkutty Aluva 17 10 Kalady 16 Eloor 70

Kuzhikandam Thodu 710


120 100


80 60 BOD

40 20 0

4 Kalarkutty

6 Kalady

4.8 Aluva

10.8 Eloor


The analysis of the observed data suggests that the river which was relatively free of pollution in its initial stage at Kallarkutty Reservoir shows a gradual increase in the pollution level reflected across the various parameters. The pH values suggest high levels of acidity at the terminal regions and the dissolved solid of the kuzhikandam thodu shows a rocket high value that is highly hazardous. It strengthens the fact that many industries are discharging their effluents into the river through this creek. The relatively higher values at kalady compared to aluva maybe due to the more extensive usage of river water for cleaning and bathing purposes. Chemical Oxygen Demand, which was exclusively tested for the Kuzhikandam creek exhibited a value well beyond the permissible limit. The BOD values too showed a gradually increasing slope, with peak values at the eloor region. Page | 14

EFFORTS UNDERTAKEN TO SAVE PERIYAR The Pollution Control Board has sent notices to the companies with directives to install treatment plants or close down the factories. Merchem installed an evaporation plant and a reverse osmosis plant HIL installed an effluent treatment plant and a 1,500 degree Celsius incinerator for hazardous waste. Cochin Minerals and Rutiles Ltd has built a hazardous waste pond at the cost and initiated new effluent treatment measures. "The measures are nowhere near the desired levels but they indicate readiness on the part of some managements to make changes if faced with serious consequences," says Purushan Eloor, environmentalist and member of the Local Area Environment Committee (LEAC) The people of Eloor are looking forward to is the Total Ecosystem Restoration Project for the Periyar. To meet the expenses of the project, the SCMC has ordered collecting a levy of Rs.2.5 crore from the polluting factories in the area. Greenpeace International has appointed Mr. V J Jose as the Periyar River Keeper to regularly monitor the quality of periyar water. He has been trying to protect and save the periyar from the clutches of pollution for the last 3 decades. Mr. V I Jose was very helpful to us and advised us via a telephone conversation on how and when to take samples from the river and also about the various factors to be taken care of while taking samples A 24X7 water quality monitoring system for the Periyar was set up by the Pollution Control Board. The results of the water quality from the EloorEdayar stretch of the river will be displayed live on the display board set up at FACT junction at Eloor.

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Several other demonstrations and protests by various organisations and environmentalists have been conducted to create awareness and to curb the pollution in periyar, the life line of Kerala. The picture shows a “Manushya Changala” demonstration across the Periyar River in protest against its pollution

Conclusion The periyar, the Life Line of Kerala is inevitable for the livelihood of keralites and others. But this case study has come to the conclusion that the river which originates as a body of fresh water, is subjected to increased level of pollution as it drains down into the Arabian Sea. The tests conducted at different stages of its course suggest that, the river is contaminated by the commercial city of Aluva and by the Industrial Island of Eloor. While people were observed bathing and using the periyar for bathing and other purposes in its initial stages, the river was abandoned for all practical purposes towards the end of its course. Leave alone bathing, none were seen even touching the waters of the once glorious periyar. The Industrial nature of the pollution at the Eloor region, is responsible for both the deterioration of the river and for the various diseases and difficulties experienced by the residents there. The hazardous chemicals and other effluents discharged into periyar by the gigantic factories have rung the death bell for the river, causing the economic, physical and mental depression of the people there. Environmentalists are more worried that the 100 percent literate state like Kerala has been tolerating this kind of indiscriminate pollution for years. The common cycle of events that is observed to be taking place concerned with the pollution in periyar is as follows ♦ Some newspaper will report the change in colour of water in the river or a case where fishes are dying due to unknown reason. ♦ An agency will be appointed to make a report. ♦ Preparation of the report will take an year, and by that time the public has forgotten the incident ♦ A new incident will happen This trend has to change and the people should come forward more strongly about protecting their river, or else, the mighty periyar shall soon be reduced to a painful memory. Remember, the final worlds of Greenpeace International’s Study on pollution in periyar

“A poisoned river means a dying population" Page | 16

Acknowledgement Accomplishment of any task, owes to the enthusiastic and determined contribution of an array of personalities. That being said, this project would not attain completion, unless those who made it possible are thanked. First and foremost I bow down before Lord Almighty for showering his infinite blessings upon us. Our Principal, a man of illuminating ideas and unwavering determination, Fr. Mathew Kareethara CMI is deeply thanked, for providing us with the crucial facilities and valuable encouragement necessary for this project. Expressing my heartfelt gratitude to our teachers, Prof. K J Devassia, Mrs. Jollin T Thekkekandam adn Mrs. Arya T.S under whose guidance and encouragement, this work was materialized. I remain grateful to Mr. Joby Thomas who rendered his helping hand for this project. I express my gratitude to Periyar River Keeper, Mr. V J Jose who served as a beam of light enlightening our path. We thank the two laboratories J & J Biotech & Speciality Chemicals (Alwaye) and Rubber Board Quality Control Laboratory (Kottayam) for analysing our river water samples and for their valuable advices. Last but not the least, I express my sincere thanks to one and all, and also to those whose names I’ve missed to mention, but whom were an integral part of this project. Name: Govind Jeevan Signature:

Bibliography The World Wide Web The Hindu Status Report On Periyar- Dr. Joseph M.L Greenpeace International- Study on Periyar Page | 17

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Profile for Govind Jeevan

Polluted Periyar: A Case Study  

A class 12 Biology Investigatory Project

Polluted Periyar: A Case Study  

A class 12 Biology Investigatory Project

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