Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Nila - Life and times of a river struggling for Survival

Monsoon this year has been ceaseless. It started on the 29th of May and it has rarely stopped for rest till yesterday. That was, it seems, a discrepancy since it has restarted in right earnest today.

For a Woodcrawler, it is a period of hibernation interspersed with very little opportunity to trundle around the woods carelessly. Small drives to Palakapandi and Meenvallam were the only bright spots in a long and grey two months (more of that later). I was getting restless and suddenly an old idea popped into my head again, Project Nila.

Every country, state or city has a river entwined in it's history and geography. If I were to delve into the historical and cultural significance of the Nila or Bharathapuzha I would have to go back in time by many a century and it would not fit into the Woodcrawler's Journal. There is a lot of material available on the topic and I am no scholar in history or geography to make intelligent comments.

The stimulus for this journey is the outcome of my failure to get a single comprehensive source on the internet about the course of the Nila from it's origin to its merger with the Arabian sea. Whatever is thrown up seems to have a common source, the Wikipedia! It seems no one is really making any effort to really gather information worth sharing, just happy with copy & paste! I have no pretensions about being able to finish this very quickly but I've got off to a start.

The Nila or Bharathapuzha is actually formed by the confluence of two of it's major tributaries, the Chitturpuzha and the Kalpathipuzha in Parali. Parallel to the newer bridge across the end of the Kalpthipuzha is an old bridge, beyond which is the confluence. Today, it's surface offers a convenient advertising space for local businesses.

It is too narrow by today's requirement so the highway has bypassed the bridge and the people residing on its either ends, who still use it to get across the river, are stuck in some kind of warp. The surface is now covered by peepals but the bridge seems to be in a much better shape than it's modern counterpart a few meters away.

That is no surprise because the gentleman who built the bridge was supposed to have given a 100 year guarantee for his handiwork. It has outlasted his promise by another 60 years! God bless Mr. Robinson.

Not only did I discover that the bridge was built in 1852, I also discovered that Parali was actually spelt Purrullie way back in the 19th century! When you look from the Purrullie bridge you can see the meeting point of the two main tributaries combining to form the Nila.

The Nila starts at the end of this stretch of river, taking a westerly direction.

Trying to get closer to the confluence is rather tricky with the monsoon in full swing. I probably have to make a short return trip after the rains slow down  a bit. A little further down the old road is the Parali check dam, one reason why the confluence becomes inaccessible in peak monsoon. It's full and overflowing.
Parali check dam

I was asking a local resident about going to the place where the tributaries actually merged to form the beginning of the Nila but he wasn't very encouraging. He was more interested in knowing whether my photos would appear in the papers or media because he was more concerned about the flooding happening to his land and the houses along the river.

From Parali my journey will be two oppposite directions. Westward to it's mouth at Ponnani and Eastward towards Annamalai Hills in Tamilnadu to the source of its tributaries. I hope to do this stages and at the end of it I should have the most comprehensive internet source on the Nila.

Keep watching this space for more as I travel with the Nila, listening to the stories she has to tell me.....