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The Bharathapuzha River in Kerala is 209 Kms long and is considered as the second longest river after Periyar. Due to its length, it is referred as Nile of Kerala also known as Nila. The Nila has been responsible for shaping the lives and culture of the people living in south Malabar in Kerala. The other names of the river are Kuttipuram Puzha and Ponnaniyar. It arises from the Western Ghats, in Tamil Nadu, moves west wards as several rivers unite in before it combines in the Arabian Sea. This river crosses the districts of Pallakad and Malapurram.
The river on the whole isn’t appropriate for routing excluding the portion that lies adjacent to the sea. Reduced flow of the river can be attributed to the dry areas of Tamil Nadu in addition to Pallakad district and the numerous dams built on the river. The reservoirs on the dam supply water that is used for irrigational purposes. The river consists of 11 dams and some more that are being built. The most notable dam on this river is known to be Malampuzha dam. The other dams are Walayar dam, Chulliyar dam, Pothundi dam, Meenkara dam.
The reservoirs provide water supply to a wide area-773 km per square. With newer dams being added- Chittur in Attapadi hills, the total area will increase by 542 km per square. At Thirthala, a regulator has been built. The bridge serves to connect Pallipuram and Thirthala. This serves as a source of water for drinking water. At Thrissur, another water project is underway. Here a regulator cum bridge reduces the distance by 11 km between Thrissur and Kozikode. This reservoir has been a saviour in the summer months. It has seen the re-emergence of fish species that were almost extinct.
The river has a notable cultural heritage. The famed Kerala Kalamandalam is situated besides the river bank in Shornur. Kunchan Nambiyar was born in Killikkurissimangalam which is also situated at the banks of the same river. Various temples line the banks giving it a religious significance- Thiruvilwamala Sree Rama temple, Panniyur Sree Varahamurthy and Thirunavaya temple. The river is used by Hindus to conduct cremations and ceremonies in honour of their ancestors.
Anyone passing the river basin by train cannot help but get refreshed by the sight of paddy fields, plantain cultivation, palm trees, and mango orchards. You cannot miss the lovely breeze except in the hot dry months of summer.
The Bharathapuzha river arises from the Anaimalai Hills of the Western Ghats. It flows towards the west through certain districts in Kerala- Pallakad, Thrissur and Malappuram. As it moves towards the sea, other rivers join in which include the Tirur River. The river moves northwards for the first 40 Kms till it reaches Pollachi at Coimbatore. The river turns westwards as more rivers join it. Two rivers Kannadipuzha and kalpathipuzha join together at Parli and become Bharathapuzha. At Pallipuram, another river Thootha river joins up with the Nila and increases its flow. At Ponnai, the river falls into the Arabian Sea.
Bharathapuzha basin has a watershed of 6,186 km square and is the largest basin in Kerala. About two thirds of the basin lies in Kerala; the rest extends in to Tamil Nadu. This basin is drier than other basins as some part of it is in dry areas- Pallakad and Tamil Nadu. The dams on the river also contribute in bringing down its flow. In the dry summer months the river particularly has a reduced flow.
The major tributaries of Bharathapuzha are-
This prominent tributary arises from the Anaimalai hills in Tamil Nadu and moves across Kollengode, Nenmara, Alathur, Wadakanchery and Pazhayannur before it meets up with the Bharathapuzha River in Mayannur.
This major tributary also arises from the foothills of Anaimalai hills in Palakkad in Kerala. It moves towards the south to meet up with Bharathapuzha. This river irrigates Palakkad district which is the rice bowl of Kerala.