Systematic tracing and Reclamation of Streams in the Western Ghats - Minimizing calamities for a better and secure living INI NJAN OZHUKATTE - let me flow - the third phase.

Today the entire world is experiencing erratic climate digression. Kerala's milieu is not distinct. The 2015-16 drought in Kerala was a precursor of the ensuing climate deviation. The Cyclone Ockhi, the torrential rains, the mudslides, and the devastating floods, all that followed are an eye-opener to the state as well as to the people.

The heavy downpour and the torrential rains of 2018 and 2019 devastated the entire state, especially the regions of Western Ghats. Previously only torrential rains of lengthy span, can trigger mudslides and landslides. But, right now a single heavy downpour can elicit potential landslides. The disastrous floods of 2018 and 2019 have catastrophic consequences in Kerala's physical, social, environmental and economic spheres - Kerala's plains and river basins, spanning roughly 50 km from the mountains to the sea, have become waterlogged, mud and sludge slit dumped, houses/buildings shattered and contagious diseases sprout up. The state's economy was crippled, many lost life and livelihood, the primary sector guttered down.

The recent disasters in Kavalappara, Pettimudi, Pathumala, Koottickal, and Kokkayar serve the realization that tragedies are impending and scientific interventions are indispensable to prevent and minimize the effects of imminent calamities. It is unanimous that the ecological biodiversity of western ghats needs to be safeguarded without fail. It is in this context the Nava Keralam karma padathi 2 -a mission mode of Government of Kerala has intervened by simultaneously strategizing techniques to resolve the prevailing issues and to confront challenges of the future by synchronizing large scale people's participation with the highest viable technology.

The worldwide scientific community has recognized the disruption of stream networks on slopes as a natural cause of landslides. Systematically tracing and reclaiming the entire watercourse networks of the Western Ghats will be a pragmatic solution to prevent the impending disasters. Such an action will secure the lives & livelihoods of the local residents and will preserve the ecosystem of the Western Ghats. The revitalisation of water courses is a great task and Navakeralam Karmapaddhati-2 envisages to achieve it by mobilizing the masses on a large scale through the participatory campaigns and through coordination of the Local Self-Government Institutions, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, State IT Mission, and Rebuild Kerala Initiative. It is expected that this innovative project will serve as a role model which can be replicated to other vulnerable landslide prone regions of the country.

The Western Ghats, an abundant repository of natural resources, homes to an exceptional environment and biodiversity, have a tremendous impact on Kerala's greenery, water availability, and agro fertility. The panoramic beauty of western ghats offer visual treat, making these regions of God's own Country alluring. The Western Ghats provides immense tourism potential-economically and socially. Responsible tourism lures the local residents towards a better economic stability. Countless tourist attractions, including splashing rivers, bustling streams, majestic waterfalls, scintillating climate, fascinating landscapes, explorable trekking and abundance of flora and fauna - an experience in a lifetime. This fascinating environment should be sustained well and good for the posterity, and a secure living to the local inhabitants is to be ensured.

A modest effort towards a significant impact

The Terrain
The 1600 km long Western Ghats trespasses six states to form a natural fort, parallel to the western seashore from the south Kanyakumari to the northTapti River on the Gujarat-Maharashtra border. The 30 km long "Palakkad Gap In Kerala's Western Ghats, serves as an opening to both the gushing monsoon winds and to the scorching summer breezes. The Western Ghats play a significant role in determining our seasons. We experience a comparatively lengthy monsoon, a prolonged summer, and a reasonable winter. The western ghats serve as a natural barrier, catalyses the humid breezes from the sea resulting in frequent rains.

The researchers date back 50 to 90 million years of ancestry to the western ghats. The Anamudi hills situated in kerala with 2695 meters height is one among the illustrious peaks of western ghats. Kerala owes the Western Ghats for its prosperity - prolific gifted rain, sumptuous rivers, natural greenery, vegetation, fertility, etc. Further the neighboring states of kerala also benefit from the originating rivers of Western Ghats as numerous tributary channels and watercourses enriches these rivers, providing rich greenery, vegetation, livelihood for the beloved neighbors.

Importance of watercourses in the Western Ghats

Numerous watercourses in the Western Ghats have naturally evolved over thousands of years. These watercourse networks embrace the superfluous water from the copious rain and securely channelizes it to the plains. Nevertheless, a good number of these streams have been obstructed for a multiplicity of reasons, which eventually bunged the smooth flow of water. The interruption to the conventional flow of water is the critical reason for the frequent mudslides, and landslides in the highlands. Normally the rain water falling in an area will get precipitated to the soil and the remaining superfluous water will be channelized to the streams and then to the rivers. But once the surface runoff is interrupted it will increase the precipitation level, and unable to mount the pressure of water, the soil will rupture its bonding with the rocks. Depending on the slope and soil structure of the area, it can result in minor mudslides to tumultuous landslides.

If the precipitation level of rain water to soil is optimum if the superfluous water channelized through the streams are uninterrupted, Then the mudslides/landslides will be minimal.

Floods and torrential rains are no longer far-flung.

The torrential rains and disastrous floods of 2018 are deemed then as the great flood of the century until it becomes consecutive in 2019. Kerala reluctantly accepted that the state is vulnerable to natural disasters and are susceptible to imminent tragedies. The 2022 world climate conference has categorically forecasted India as a vulnerable destination of unprecedented extreme rains having catastrophic consequences. Unfortunately the western ghats regions too fall within the purview of this climatic digression. As tragedies are impending, scientific and collective interventions are indispensable to prevent and minimize calamities.

What about the solution?

It is unanimous that global warming and climate digression are to be blamed for all natural disasters. The mighty interventions/discoveries so far made are incompetent to impede these natural disasters, but can only minimize its impact. Here too a scientific, concerted and collective endeavor is envisaged which can minimize the mudslides and landslides in the Western Ghats region and thereby reduce their outcomes. Systematically tracing and reclaiming the whole watercourse networks of the Western Ghats, and channelizing the superfluous rain water uninterruptedly through these streams is pertinent at this point of time.

  • Let's retrieve the stalled watercourses
  • Let's ensure smooth flow of water through channels
  • Let's restore, reclaim & revitalize the entire watercourse system

No matter how much rain falls, let the excessive rainwater flow uninterruptedly through the chain of natural watercourses and eventually end up in the river.
Let the rivers carry the water to the plains and valleys; endow prosperity-natural greenery, vegetation and fertility. With due diligence, the State is committed to reclaim the whole watercourse networks of the Western Ghats. The Harita Kerala Mission, after the successful implementation of the two phases of 'Ini njan ozhukatte' (let me flow now) by revitalizing and ensuring water affluence in the state's rivers and streams, now in the third phase seeks the rejuvenation of the watercourses networks in the Western Ghats region.

Let's secure Western Ghats Together, let's make it happen

Mode of execution
A widespread notion prevails that the Western Ghats and its inhabitants are facing risk on behalf of the cry for environmental preservation and sustainable development. This skepticism has gained momentum owing to the recent natural disasters and climate digressions. It is in this context, the Campaign- "Let's Secure Western Ghats" becomes relevant. The concept of this campaign is to create a milieu in which those born and raised there can continue to live securely there itself and perform their livelihood activities routinely.
"Let's Secure Western Ghats" aims to refurbish the water networks by retrieving the impediments in the water courses, spanning across 230 Grama Panchayats having 46531.63 km long canal networks.
Those born and raised here can continue to live here securely and perform their livelihood activities consistently Or where else where should the fifty lakh inhabitants in these 230 Grama Panchayats be evacuated and repatriated, paradoxical in a densely populated state with inadequate land availability.

The Haritha Kerala Mission and the State IT Mission have developed a methodology to systematically trace and locate the watercourse networks in a region. The first step is to physically identify and locate the hindered and vanished watercourses already snapped on the satellite imagery map. This process of mapping is done by utilizing a mobile application and computer software made for the purpose. The mapping is done by physically moving along the waterway and marking the current plight of the stream in the software. The evaluation done physically will facilitate the identification of the damaged, interrupted, direction altered and vanished watercourses.
The next step is the reclamation and revitalization of watercourses, envisaged by mobilizing the masses on a large scale through the participatory campaigns and through coordination of the Local Self-Government Institutions, various departments the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, NGO and other volunteers.

As a part of the Nava Keralam karma padhathi, under the auspices of the Haritha Kerala Mission, the local self-government bodies are taking the lead in making this mission a reality. After ensuring a smooth flow of water through the watercourses, no matter how heavy the rain pours, the superfluous water will uninterruptedly gush through the scheduled channels and then to the rivers. As the rain water is channelized uninterruptedly through the streams the precipitation level of rain water to soil will be optimum and the chances of mudslides and landslides will be minimal.


We owe the responsibility of protecting the biodiversity of the Western Ghats and simultaneously the welfare of the local residents. We are indebted to preserve our wealth-the ecosystem and biodiversity of Western Ghats.
Any destruction to the Western Ghats would be suicidal and are beyond imagination. We should ensure caution in our actions. We need perpetual smooth flowing rivers, simultaneously adequate groundwater level is to be ensured. Hence, it is high time to protect the watercourse networks of western Ghats. The recurring natural calamities definitely will cripple the tourism sector of the state. Desolate and sterile nature, dried rivers, austere climate if subsist here, will tarnish the tourism prospects and associated tourism-based livelihoods of the state. Prospective planning is indispensable to counter the adverse effects of climate change, and global warming. Let's secure the western ghats is a leap towards it. This endeavor is also to safeguard the livelihood and ensure the wellbeing of the residents. Building a Nava Keralam capable of evading and preventing calamities.

Progress of Mapathon

As the first phase of "Mapathon", scientific mapping of watercourses has been completed in the targeted 230 Gram Panchayats. These 230 grama panchayaths belonging to the9 districts of the state, share borders with the western ghats. It is identified that 46531.63 km long canal networks are available in this region. Maps of the entire 230 Gram Panchayats had been prepared and handed over to the field division for physical verification and updation. It took 11160 man days to finish the entire mapping process.

The next phase of reclamation activities are currently underway in 44 Gram Panchayats pertaining to 6 districts. In the panchayats where the Mapathon has been completed, activities such as reclamation of drains to facilitate water flow have been initiated. An action plan has been prepared in these panchayats for the second phase of activities. Public awareness activities, formation of public committees, Participatory campaigns, general cleaning campaign to remove garbage from streams, cleaning of streams that are clogged with weeds, mud and other garbage, providing soak pits to houses in the vicinity of streams, measures to reclaim illegal encroachment, data collection of streams without protection wall. inspection of heavily polluted streams, list of silted watercourses, listing and identification of the damaged, interrupted, direction altered and vanished watercourses its reclamation measures etc are the main course of action in the second phase.