Residents living along the Maruthaiyar in Perambalur district complain about the sorry state of the river that was once a major source of irrigation. Weeds and polluted water flowing along the course have contaminated the groundwater, they say.
The Maruthaiyaur, flowing through Perambalur and Ariyalur districts before joining the Kollidam, is the lifeline for people of Neduvasal, Kalpadi, and nearby villages. “In the past, we did not have to struggle for water. The groundwater was recharged regularly and the large tracts of agricultural lands were nourished sufficiently,” says G. Vasantha, a resident.
S. Ragavan, another resident, pitches in: “Nowadays, even after heavy overnight rainfall, there is no water in the river. A little stream of waste water released from Perambalur town is all that flows into it.”
Ragavan, along with a group of youth, approached the district administration several times for redressal of the issue. Now, people are weary of submitting petitions. “For over four years, we have submitted petitions to various officials but in vain,” he says.
According to Ms. Vasantha, people of her village have planned to organise a protest demanding rejuvenation of the river. “We have decided to stage road roko the next time the Collector visits. We have no choice but to draw attention to our issues this way. We have struggled for too long,” says P. Shakthivel, panchayat president, Kalpadi village, Perambalur block.
He recalls a meeting that 50 people had with the Collector to put forth their demands a month ago.
“We were told that a plan is being drawn up to divert the water to a private company nearby and that the river would be cleaned up only after six months," he said.
Cattle drink the polluted water and fall ill, while the problem of mosquitoes is never-ending, he adds.
Groundwater too, has become unpotable. “We take water from our houses to irrigate our agricultural land,” he points out.
“We had to separately approach the Public Works Department for getting prosopis juliflora and other weeds cleared, but there has been no response," he says.
Meanwhile, officials of the Perambalur Municipality deny all claims that untreated waste water was being let off into the river.
“Water is collected through ungerground-drainage systems and processed at sewage treatment plants in the district,” a senior official said.
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