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The Bharathappuzha, also known as Nila, is a river in India in the State of Kerala. At 209 km, it is the second-longest river in Kerala after the Periyar River. The word "Nila" indicates the culture more than just a river. Nila has groomed the culture and life of south Malabar part of Kerala. We see the name "Peraar" indicating the same river in ancient scripts and documents.


The headwaters of main tributary of Bharathappuzha originates in the Anamalai hills in the Western Ghats in Tamil Nadu, and flows westward through Palakkad Gap, across Palakkad district, Thrissur and Malappuram districts of Kerala, with many tributaries joining it, including the Tirur River. For the first 40 km or so, the Bharathappuzha follows an almost northerly course till Pollachi. At Parli both Kannadippuzha and Kalpathippuza merge and flow as Bharathappuzha and follows a westerly course until it empties into the Arabian Sea at Ponnani. Thootha River merges with Nila at Pallippuram. As Thootha river is rich in water after its merge Nila becomes thicker in flow.

View of the River.
The Old Railroad Bridge over Thutha River near its union with Bharathappuzha, built by the British in 1867 which goes into disuse with the construction of new bridges.

The river is not navigable along most of its course except the small stretch where it joins the sea. With a drainage basin or watershed of 6,186 km², Bharathapuzha basin is the largest among all the river basins in Kerala. A little more than two-thirds of this area (4400 km²) is within Kerala and the remaining area (1786 km²) is in Tamil Nadu. Though Bharathapuzha has a large basin, the water flow is relatively less compared to other long because a large portion of the basin is located in the comparatively drier regions of Tamil Nadu and Palakkad Gap. The construction of number of dams after independence has also reduced the river flow. In fact in the summer months there is almost no flow in most part of the river.The river is the Nile of Kerala and has the name NILA also.

The Bharathappuzha is the lifeline of many cities and villages, including Palakkad, Parli, Killikkurussimangalam, Ottappalam, Shoranur, Pattambi, Thrithala, Thiruvegappura, Kudallur, Pallipuram and Kumbidi. The village of Parudur, including the town of Pallipuram, stands near the confluence of this river and the River Tootha or simply Thuthapuzha.

Irrigation projects

A view of the railroad bridge over Bharathappuzha, near Shoranur

The Bharathappuzha is extensively dammed and there are six reservoirs along the course of the river, and two more are under construction. Malampuzha dam is the largest among the reservoirs built across Bharathapuzha and its tributaries. Other dams in the Bharathapuzha basin are: Walayar dam, Mangalam dam, Pothundi dam, Meenkara dam and Chuliyar dam. Most of these reservoirs serve the purpose of irrigation only. A total area of 773 square kilometer|km² is irrigated by these irrigation projects. Two more dams, Kanjirapuzha dam and Chittur dam are under construction. The construction of these two dams will increase the area irrigated by another 542 km².

A view of the Velliyamkallu Regulator cum Bridge

Another major project is the Regulator cum bridge at Thrithala built on the Velliyankallu bridge inaugerated by Kerala Chiefminister VS Achyudanandan. The bridge connects the two villages Pallippuram and Thrithala. The main objective of the regulator is drinking water supply. The water supply projects towards Thrissur district has already started. The shutter height of the regulator is 5 m and it can contain a huge quantity of water. Also the new bridge reduces the distance from Thrissur to Kozhikode by 11 km. This project is the largest in Bharathappuzha in last many decades.

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