The Kuttemperoor River near the southern tip of India has, for years, suffered a long and protracted death, choked by weeds and a thick accumulation of sewage left over from illegal sand mining operations and construction activities.
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Toxic algae and parasites had long since laid claim to the river, wiping out the fish and other aquatic life that once filled the more than seven-mile-long waterway.
But early this year, 700 residents from a nearby village banded together in a large-scale clean-up effort, prompted largely by a recurring drought and chronic shortage of water for irrigation and other non-drinking purposes.
Paid through a rural employment act, the workers braved toxins, disease and even the threat of crocodiles for more than two months to bring the Kuttemperoor back to its former glory.
“I was down with dengue for two weeks, but I returned to digging the day I was out of my bed,”one worker, Geetha P, recalled.
She and the others worked tirelessly to remove the thick beds of poisonous weeds from the surface, then tackled the layer of plastic waste that lay like a suffocating sheath over the riverbed.
That work finally provided access to the heavy layers of silt and solid waste that had accumulated beneath the plastic layer, which they were then able to dredge. The laborious project was finally completed on March 20 after 70 days.
“The fisherman are very happy now that fishes have started appearing again in the river,”said N. K. Sukumaran Nair, an environmentalist who works with a local non-governmental organization.
“There was a point when the scarcity of water was too much and we had no choice but to revive the river despite objections that it was a waste of money and energy,”said P. Viswambhara Panicker, president of the workers’ village.
“Proving it all wrong, we have submitted a detailed project report to the government to de-silt the river and for promoting eco-tourism in the region,” he continued. “We have also conducted an awareness program to convince the people to not pollute the river anymore.â€
Thanks to these 700 villagers, the river now has new life. Truly an incredible example of what can happen when people come together for a common good.
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