The Kuttanad wetland ecosystem development package that had ground to a halt after a series of lapses in implementation, is set to receive a fresh lease of life. The government has launched a move to revive the project with the focus on ecological security of the region.
Two high-level meetings convened by the Chief Secretary recently decided to prepare an action plan after a thorough evaluation of the activities taken up so far under the package. Official sources said the discussions centred on how the remaining programmes could be dovetailed with the Haritha Keralam Mission.
“The new project would focus on sanitation, water supply, flood control and management of waterbodies. Promotion of organic farming and responsible tourism are also expected to get priority,” an official said.
Launched in 2010 for the overall development of the region and the residents, the Kuttanad package was conceived as a solution to the degradation of the aquatic environment and the health hazards faced by the people. The project included proposals for ecological restoration, flood control, development of agriculture and fisheries, sanitation and drinking water supply.
Prepared by the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation, the project received a massive dose of funds from the Central government. Yet it failed to achieve most of its objectives. Critics point out that the lion’s share of the funds had gone to the construction of bunds by the Irrigation Department. By June last year, out of the ₹1,268.13 crore sanctioned for various programmes and activities, only ₹780 crore had been utilised.
“The Kuttanad region is on the verge of a crisis. Desperate measures are called for to address the situation on multiple fronts,” says K.G. Padmakumar, Director, International Research and Training Centre for Below Sea-level Farming, Thottapally. Dr. Padmakumar sees the need for a course correction with the focus shifting from hard engineering solutions to soft options such as biofencing and temporary bunds.
Concurring with the view, R. Sridhar, Programme Director, Thanal, stresses the need to link ecological restoration with disaster risk reduction and climate adaptation. He also calls for stakeholder consultations and deployment of appropriate technology.
Dr. S. Leenakumary, former Head of the Rice Research Station at Moncombu under Kerala Agricultural University, said the restoration of the Kuttanad wetland ecosystem was closely tied to ecofriendly methods of agriculture and water conservation. “It is important to identify the failures and take corrective action,” she said.
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