From flash floods and landslips to drought, villages of Kootickal and Kokkayar are facing the impact of climate change. Pullukayar, a river that burst its banks to wreak havoc in the settler villages of Koottickal and Kokkayar just four months ago, might sound the most unlikely place to look for an impending drought situation.
A walk along the riverbanks here , however, suggests otherwise. Without a hint of rains, the river has been reduced into a trickle around its midstream boulders with the water starting to form pools.
The river, which originates from the Vagamon hills, has been hit by a double whammy of impacts with the floods, closely followed by an extreme spell of drought. The phenomenon has created a cascade of impacts on life in the villages around it, which together reported 22 deaths during a landslide-induced flash flood that struck the river here on October 16, 2021.
“A weekend of light rainfall may keep this trickle of flow for two more days though it will do nothing to ease the problems that we face’‘, says Josna Jose, while drawing water from one of the pools on the riverbed. She lives in a small house on the riverbanks near Elamkadu Top here and uses dirty water from the stream even for cooking purposes.
Her daughter, Lillet, was just a few months old when the river burst its banks. By the time the floods swept away a portion of her home, Josna had escaped to a safer location along with other members of her family including 100-year old grandmother.
“That, however, is a long old story now as our present concern is about surviving this summer. Never ever in my life I have seen this river running so dry’‘, said 67-year old Jose Olikkal, Josna’s father.
Three villages worst hit
The drought situation has been particularly worse in the villages Elamkadu Top, Koottickal and Enthayar, where water level in wells even along the riverbanks is going down drastically.
A walk across the treacherous riverbed brings to light even worse scenes of a disaster. As many as as 17 of the 27 houses in the Vettickanam Attoram colony in Kokkayar, which were shattered by the flash floods, lie like damaged toys in the debris. Down the stream, an array of houses in Mukalil Tazham remain buried under sand and boulders that were propelled down the hills.
“All my property including 40 cents of farmlands comprising plantains and tapioca , were washed away. With the river bursting its banks and changing its course, our land along with that of the neighbours are now located right on the middle of this dried up river ‘‘, said Sujatha Chandran.