Eloor (Kerala): Monday was World Environment day, a good day to acknowledge those who are doing their bit to save the nature, the 'green warriors'. The Periyar river in Kerala is dying a slow death. But a man, in love with the river is fighting a losing battle to save it.
The centuries-old Periyar River cuts across the state's topography from east to west. V J Jose is Asia’s first river-keeper, protecting the now polluted Periyar. He is the Deputy Campaigner and Peace River Keeper of Green Peace project in Kerala.
He's been a witness to the silent and slow death of what he loves most, the river that was once poets’ muse. Periyar is one of the most polluted rivers in the country now. And Jose is its solitary observer and keeper.
He collects water samples from different spots, he conducts lab tests, and then sends the alarming reports to the government. "My mother was my inspiration. I learnt from her, how to send petitions," says Jose.
Eloor village situated in north of Cochin is Kerala's biggest chemical belt today. With 247 industries dumping their wastes into the Periyar river everyday, Jose seems to be fighting a losing battle. But that does not deter him. Threats by strong industrial lobby only make his resolve firm. "I get lot of threats but I am not bothering about that, till I die, I have to do something for this river and the next generation," Jose says.
A ride on Jose's boat in the river makes one see the importance of the mission. Periyar is not just a decaying water body. For Jose and his close associate Benny, it is life itself. "We need to create this new slogan that it’s not just a river but it is life. She is the queen of rivers in Kerala. Sitting here on her banks and seeing her die is something we just cannot do. We need to fight for this our entire lives," says State Convenor, Benny Joseph. However, Jose has one regret, that despite all his efforts he might not be able to give the Periyar as clean to his son as he got from his father.