Weeds affect the smooth flow of boat traffic in Kottayam

A boat trip along the Kottayam-Alappuzha route is no longer fun.

An explosion of water hyacinth in Vembanad Lake, its adjacent rivers and streams, has upended the region’s water transport system, with boats often getting stuck between the waters.

The weeds have also threatened the aquatic life in these water bodies and polluted the water, in addition to affecting the transport of drinking water to remote villages and the movement of paddy and other materials.

According to Shaji V. Nair, director of the state water transport department, the negotiation over the clogged route has caused further delays in boat operations between Kottayam and Alappuzha, which currently take a circuitous route through Pallam due to of the non-repair of the lift-bridges along the Kanjiram road.

“Boats are having difficulty moving through these thick mats and the situation is particularly serious in the channel leading to Kottayam. Movement through this cloud of weeds also damages the engine shafts,” he said.

The presence of logs or other debris hidden in these densely interwoven mats adds to the concerns of the SWTD.

Taking note of the situation, the department has approached Kottayam Municipality and neighboring local bodies requesting urgent action to eradicate the weeds. “Schools have just reopened and at this stage any disruption or delay in operation will affect pupils in the lower-lying western interiors, particularly during the upcoming exam season,” Mr Nair added.

Apart from passenger boats, the movement of houseboats, speedboats and cargo ships has also been disrupted along the Kavanar, Pennar and Kaippuzhayar. Several tour boat operators have postponed boat cruises to the morning hours when these plants retreat into Vembanad Lake.

Irrigation Department officials said Water Resources Minister Roshy Augustine would visit the area soon. “Even if you harvest these weeds with machines, more will still come from the lake. Thus, the harvesting of weeds should be supported by marking the boundaries of various channels with the help of nets,” the official noted.

Earnest A. Martinez