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Local Area Environment Committee and Civil Societies in water management A case study

Congress: 2008
Author(s): S. Thomas
Joseph Sebastian Paimpillil, Senior Researcher, Center for Earth Research and Environment Management, Cochin 17, India. S. Thomas,Former Chief Engineer, Irrigation Department, Kerala State Public Works Department, India.

Keyword(s): water quality, civil socities, monitoring
AbstractThe water of the Periyar River (south India - Kerala's largest river), had frequent colour changes into red associated with industrial discharges. During the last nine months, the discoloration had occurred 25 times and fish kills occurred thrice. The discolored water got into the drinking water system through the local pumping stations. As confrontation between the stakeholders can not solve the water management concerns, a doctrine of partnership between industry, NGOs, experts, environmentalists, pollution control board and the Government and to work together in monitoring, preventing and minimizing water quality damages was put forward. A framework for participatory approach involving all stakeholders in creating a road map for safeguarding the river water was established for Cochin region. The Local Area Environment Committee (LAEC) is such a participatory process and has been proactive in creating awareness and disseminating information regarding the various international conventions and its compliance. The LAEC has been entrusted with the task of auditing the industries polluting the rivers. The industries on Periyar river have been audited and have found that it is being polluted with a high quantity of iron and zinc. The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) by LAEC revealed the deplorable condition of the river. The soil, and the wetlands have also been contaminated with heavy metals. LAEC had initiated steps to keep a strict vigil on the industrial units which tend to violate EPA standards. The discoloration of the river, prompted the LAEC to have People's Right Declaration Convention - attended by politicians, trade union leaders, legislators, scientists and environmental activists for asserting their right to live, food security, safe water and healthy environment. The LAEC that probed into the reasons of chemical pollution and the suggested remedial steps were highlighted in the convention. Most factories were forced to set up effluent treatment facilities under the strict monitoring of the LAEC. The People's Charter of Demands adopted at the convention called for immediate implementation of an integrated and comprehensive process for decontamination of the river and the surroundings. The EIA by the LAEC recommended a Comprehensive Chemical Disaster Management Plan involving the district administration, the factories, the state pollution control board, the local bodies and the NGOs. The LAEC has observed that the water quality situation has improved following stringent measures being recommended and taken by it.
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