Kerala Finance Minister Thomas Isaac announced Rs 750 crore for the Kuttanad Package, a wetland development project.
This is the third phase of the allocation for Kuttanad, the largest rice producing region in Kerala, often referred to as the 'Rice Bowl of Kerala'.
Isaac had announced Rs 1,000-crore package for the region in last year's budget.
What is Kuttanad Package?
The first Kuttanad package was announced in 2008 with the . Centre sanctioning Rs 2,139.8 crore to revive agriculture in the region, restore ecology and make it flood free. The package was allocated on the suggestion of renowned scientist M S Swaminathan, who hails from Kuttanad. However, shoddy implementation and lack of co-ordination between government departments scuttled the ambitious project. This has been blamed for the recurrent flooding and crop destruction.
How do floods affect Kuttanad?
A 1989 study on water balance in Kuttanad, based on historic data, found that floods in Kuttanad have a return period or recurrence interval of two years, five years, 10 years, 25 years and 50 years. According to it, floods with a return period of 10 years and above are severe, while those with a return period of five years are less severe. The last time a severe flood hit Kuttanad was in 2018.
What were the recommendations of MS Swaminathan Committee?
MS Swaminathan Committee had submitted the report on the “measures to mitigate agrarian distress in Alappuzha and Kuttanad wetland ecosystem” in 2007. It emphasised the need to strengthen ecology, health, sanitation, crop-based agriculture, livestock-integrated agriculture, fisheries-based agriculture, Kuttanad’s tourism potential and measures to manage flood.
It noted that floods occurred when excess water from various water bodies could not drain out into the Arabian Sea. “Lake encroachments, unscientific construction of roads, bridges and culverts, silting and aggressive spread of waterweeds block free flow of water, resulting in flooding to water logging.”
To improve flood management, the report recommended deepening the Alappuzha-Changanassery Canal and removing all encroachments, water weeds, silt and other sediments that hinder water flow in the canal.
Where is Kuttanad?
Kuttanad lies between the foothills of the Western Ghats in the east and the elevated plains of coastal Alappuzha in the west. It lies below sea level. Floods affect Kuttanad when water levels in four rivers – the Pampa, Achenkoil, Manimala and Meenachil – rise during monsoon.