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‘River linking will prove catastrophic for Kuttanad’


                                                                                                                                        The Hindu, Kottayam, 23rd January, 2015

Bishop Thomas Oommen, Deputy Moderator of the Church of South India (CSI), has warned against the proposed Pamba-Vypar-Achankoil linking project which, according to him, would push Kuttanad into an environmental catastrophe similar to the one that has hit the Aral Sea in Central Asia.

Delivering his presidential address at the five-day seminar on climate change organised by the CSI, CMS College and Nilackal Ecological Commission here on Thursday, the Bishop said water was at the heart of the climate change debate.

However, the river linking endeavour, the engineers who value the physicality of water need to be sensitised to the aquatic bio-diversity and how these “nature’s engineers” render ecological services.

“On diverting water, a river becomes lean, its aquatic life is disturbed and its aesthetic quality impaired. Any engineering intervention, however small, will invariably impact an ecosystem’s functions and services,” he said.

Referring to the catastrophe that hit the Aral sea, the Bishop said the immense fresh water lake had shrunk by 60 per cent during the past three decades after Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and other Central Asian republics diverted water from the two major rivers which drained into the lake, to irrigate their cotton fields and other crops. From the original 50 cubic kilometres of fresh water that was supplied by the rivers to the lake in 1965, the supply was cut to zero by 1980, he said.

This had triggered a chain reaction which has devastated the life of millions of people. “As such, the CSI cannot support the river linking project which will damage the eco-balance in the nation,” he said.

According to him, the CSI will take the initiative to establish a network of scientists and religious scholars who are interested in issues of climate change, creation care and sustainable development.

The seminar was inaugurated by P.J. Kurien, Deputy Chairman, Rajya Sabha. Oomen V. Oommen, chairman, State Bio-Diversity Board, delivered the keynote address. Bishop Zacharias Mar Theophilos, Saffragan Metropolitan of the Marthoma Church; Benoy Viswam, former Minister for Environment, and others spoke.