Kuttanad package to bring relief to farmers

July 25th, 2008 - 3:30 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

Alappuzha (Kerala), July 25 (IANS) The Rs.1,840 crore Kuttanad package cleared Thursday by the Manmohan Singh government is certain to give a new lease of life to Kuttanad, often referred to as the ‘rice bowl of Kerala’. The package was prepared by none other than son of the soil and eminent agricultural scientist M.S. Swaminathan.

About 90 per cent of the Kuttanad area comes in Alappuzha district,which incidentally is the home town of towering political personalities like Defence Minister A.K. Antony, Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi and Kerala Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan.

Kuttanad, which has some 25,000 hectares of paddy cultivable area, is the only area under paddy cultivation in the state which is situated below sea level and this causes a lot of difficulties for the farmers.

“Poor infrastructure facilities is the biggest lacunae. There are no proper motorable roads, the waterways are clogged with mud and sand making water transport a nightmare. Another major problem is repair works to the Thottapally Spillway and the Thanneermukham Bund are long overdue,” said Haripad (a good portion of Kuttanad comes under this constituency) legislator Babu Prasad to IANS.

Another major drawback in Kuttanad is that salt water enters the cultivable areas and the biggest task for these farmers is to pump out the salt water and ensure that fresh water is available during the time of cultivation.

It is here that the much awaited Kuttanad package will prove beneficial because this package will provide funds for the Kuttanad ecology revamp plan once it receives proposals from the Kerala government.

Achuthanandan reacted by saying that, “though late, we welcome the decision of the Centre.”

“From our side, all the formalities will be rushed through. The Centre should see that the scheme is not delayed any further and funds should be released at the earliest,” said Achuthanandan.

With the package now given the green signal, the Kerala government will now have to prepare detailed project reports in areas like promotion of natural water flow, newer roads, enhanced ecological health and where agricultural activities would be the beneficiary.

Kuttanad legislator Thomas Chandy said the basic framework has already been prepared by Swaminathan.

“Now the state government has to set the ball rolling by preparing detailed project reports. And, depending on this, the funds will be released by the Centre. The Swaminathan report suggests that the entire package should be implanted in three years time. May be, it would take one more year for everything to be ready,” said Chandy.

Prasad added that the tourism sector would be an indirect beneficiary through this package because it is in this district that the houseboat tourism industry is booming.

“The harvest season in Kuttanad is in March and April every year and there should be special packages to take tourists to these areas to see harvesting being done. The resounding natural beauty with lakes, roads, and hundreds of acres of paddy cultivation areas in its full greenery coupled with the beautiful horizon, would be an instant hit for the visiting tourists,” said Prasad.

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