Welcome to the Official website of Kuttanad Package

Kuttanad region and its community were facing severe agrarian distress for the last 5 decades owing to a variety of factors.  Based on the request of the Govt. of Kerala to address the perennial problems faced in Kuttanad, the Union Govt. entrusted the Dr. M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation, Chennai to conduct a scientific study of the region and suggest suitable measures to mitigate agrarian distress in Kuttanad.  The MSSRF recommended a variety of interventions to be implemented as a Package with a total cost outlay of Rs. 1,840 crore which was accepted by the Govt. of India for funding under ongoing Central Sector Schemes. Detailed Project Reports (DPRs) prepared by the State Govt. for different activities envisaged in the Package are under different stages of implementation.

Latest Happenings

LAST UPDATED ON 22/08/2016

  • Silo storage system in modern rice mill of Oil Palm India Ltd at Vechoor Kottayam was inaugurated by the Hon'ble CM on 1/2/2016 5 Pm at Vechoor funded under 13th FCA for Kuttanad Development
  • The 9th Prosperity Council Meeting chaired by the Hon'ble Chief Minister to review the works under Kuttanad Package held on 7/10/2014, 11.30 am at Thiruvananthapuram
  • The Hon'ble Chief Minister inaugurated the launch of construction works of Thanneermukkom Barrage and renovation of  existing shutters on 16/9/2014 at Alappuzha.

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History

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HISTORY OF KUTTANAD AND HER AGRICULTURE

(COMPILED BY THE PROJECT OFFICE FROM SEVERAL SOURCES) 

INTRODUCTION

Kuttanad is a deltaic trough like formation shaped by the confluence of four major rivers of the State, the Meenachil, the Manimala, the Pampa and the Achenkoil draining into the Vembanad Lake.  Geologically Kuttanad is considered as a recent sedimentary formation.  In the geological past, the entire area was a part of the Arabian Sea.  Though the boundary of Kuttanad is rather loosely defined and the extent of its area has been variously computed at different times, today it encompasses 79 revenue villages, 10 Taluks and 3 Districts.  Cherthala, Ambalapuzha, Chengannur, Kuttanad, Karthikappally and Mavelikara Taluks in Alappuzha Districts, Thiruvalla taluk in Pathanamthitta District and Changanassery, Vaikom and Kottayam taluks in Kottayam districts covering  an area of 870 Sq. km.

HISTORY

There are many legends on the origin of Kuttanad.  According to one legend, Kuttanad was believed to be forest with dense tree growth.  This forest was destroyed subsequently by a wild fire.  Chuttanad (the place of the brunt forest), was eventually called Kuttanad.  It is a well known fact that burned black wooden logs were mined from paddy fields called as ‘Karinilam’(Black paddy fields), from areas  in and around Thottappally until the recent past. This fact throws some light on this theory of Chuttanad evolving to Kuttanad.

Another legend stipulates that Kuttanad owes its origin to ‘Kuttan’ a local name of Lord Budha.  In fact, the famous statue at Karumady in Kuttanad is believed to be that of Lord Budha.

As per historical records, there were ports at Vayaskara near Kottayam, Kadapra near Niranam, Vazhappally near Changanassery and Nakkada near Thiruvalla.  Nevertheless eventually these ports disappeared because the sea receded from the inundated Kuttanad area which still remained water logged, with depth of water ranging from two feet in shallow areas and several feet in deeper areas.

In some old books written by European writers like Pliney and others, Kuttanad is seen mentioned as Kottonara an area rich with black pepper, which  is being exported in bulk quantities from the ports in Kuttanad like Bareke,(Purakkad),Kottonaro(most probably Nakkada near Thiruvalla).

In the first century A.D. the land of Kerala seemed to have been divided into five areas –namely, Venad, Kuttanad, Kadanad, Poozhinad, and Karkanad. At that time Kuttanad extended from Kollam to Kochi. Aai kings were ruling the intermediate area called Kuttanad.  Aai kingdom acted as a buffer state between two powerful kingdoms at that time, namely Pandya and Chera kingdoms. Aai kingdom was in power in Kuttanad during the period from first to tenth  century AD.  Later this kingdom met with its natural fate of decay and eventual disappearance.  It is not exactly known when actually the Chempakassery kingdom made inroads in Kuttanad area. Chempakassery kingdom was unique in the sense because it was the only kingdom in that area which had a Brahmin king.  The period of Chempakassery kings could be called the golden age of Kuttanad because the region prospered in all aspects during this period.

AGRICULTURE  IN  KUTTANAD

The golden era of Kuttanad Paddy cultivation started with the construction of a harbor at Alapuzha by Sri “Raja Kesava Das” the Divan of then Travancore  “Empire Ramavarma”. It was through these water ways of Kuttanad that spices, condiments and other exportable commodities from the Western Ghats reached Alapuzha harbor. Till that time “Nanchinaad” (now in Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu) was known as the rice bowl of Kerala. The rulers of Travancore realized the necessity of another rice bowl to meet the increasing demand for food grains which transformed Kuttanad into the rice bowl of Kerala .

Kuttanad is a land reclaimed from Vembanad Lake. The reclamation of  Kayal lands in Kuttanad had three phases.

1st Phase – Going by history and physical geography Kuttanad comprises of two regions, Old Kuttanad ( Upland Kuttanad ) & New Kuttanad (Lowland Kuttanad).  The land in Old kuttand was partly a natural formation in the back water caused by the deposit of silt and sand by the rivers while the other parts were developed through reclamation of shallow parts of the back waters.  From the late 19th century with the reclamation of deeper backwaters resulted in the emergence of New Kuttanad.

The State was an important actor in the reclamation of agriculture.  During the initial period without any assistance or support from the Government, private investors reclaimed Kayal lands.  But due to the heavy investment and other expenses incurred in this process, reclamation during the 1st phase was too low ie, only up to 250 ha of land got reclaimed.

Back water was state property and permission of the Government was necessary to reclaim it.  Beginning from 1880’s the state not only allowed but actively encouraged and assisted reclamation of back waters for growing rice.  The State offered loans at concession rate of interest @ 4% and allowed exception from land tax for the reclaimed land for the first 5 years.  After that a minimum rate of tax- annual assessment equivalent to ½ of the quantity of seed sown was levied till the revenue settlement survey was conducted.

2nd Phase: The second phase started during 1888. Pioneering new reclamation was undertaken by Chalayil Eravi Kesava Panicker, a landed aristocrat (great grant uncle of the Historian and Diplomat Sardar K.M. Panicker).  He chose to reclaim Vembanad kayal from the mouth of the Chennamkari river as it joins with the back waters.  The reclaimed kayal was known as ‘ Attumuttu Kayal’ and subsequently Panicker reclaimed several other portions of the backwaters culminating with ‘ Mathi Kayal’.  The other kayal lands reclaimed are ‘Manikya mangalam kayal’ in Kavalam village and ‘Aaru Panku’ and ‘Cherukali Kayal’  in kainakary. Later in 1903, Travancore Government was forced to ban reclamation upon pressure from the Presidency Government of Madras which feared that reclamation was harming the Cochin Port due to piling up of sand at the port’s mouth.  

3rd Phase: The 3rd phase started during 1912 with the lifting of the ban on reclamation. Nearly 5000 ha  were reclaimed during this phase and the most renounced one were “Rani”, “Chithira”, and “Marthandam” which were done by the famous Kayal King “ Murikkumootil Thomman Joseph”. These Kayals were so  named in order to express his deep gratitude to the Ruling Dynasty of Travancore which was then under the reign of  Regent  Rani Sethu Lekshmi Bhai. In this phase the indigenous petty and para were replaced by mechanically operated Kerosene and Diesel engines for de-watering. The third phase came to an end with the introduction of “wages system” to the laborers by 1943. Eravi Kesava Panicker, Kalathil Antony Mappila, Chirayil Thommen and Thomas Murikkan were the leading figures in kayal land reclamations.

The reclaimed tracts were often named after the members of the Royal family or high officials as a mark of acknowledgement.  It was also usual that reclaimed lands were named after the original name of that part of the back water which was reclaimed or nearby village or named after the number of partners involved in the venture. Eg., Aarupanku kayal literally means six share back waters

Reclamation was taken up during summer when water level in the back waters dipped. During those days reclamation was done using water wheels to drain water.  The introduction of mechanical pump set that could drain deep back waters within a shorter time became crucial for rapid change.  This happened during the last decade of the 19th century.  Locally the pump sets were called ‘Pettiyum  Parayum’. By the beginning of the 20th century mechanized pump-sets fuelled by Kerosene or crude oil came into practice.  These were used pump sets imported from Great Britain.

Central to the organization of reclamation cultivation was a detailed division of labour based on caste and gender.  Agricultural operations in the reclaimed tracts began with ploughing .  It was attended with rituals.  The soil of the reclaimed back water was acidic and to neutralize it, lime was applied during ploughing.  After ploughing the sluices in the dyke were opened to flood the field.  When the water receded, the field was again ploughed and inner dykes and channels were repaired.   The soil was then raked with a harrow, weeded and worked in to a soft puddle. Weeding was done before sowing. Sowing was done after the monsoon subsided.  Within a week of draining the field, the first leaf blades of the plant would be visible.  The field was completely drained after transplanting.  Following this manure (cow dung, green leaves, hay, and ash) was applied.  Neither chemical fertilizers nor pesticides were used.  Water was let into the field at regular intervals till the harvest.  To harvest, an iron sickle with wooden handle was used.  The ear heads were cut below the flag leaf.  In certain parts of old reclaimed areas, a deep-water variety of rice known as ‘Kolappala’was cultivated.  Both transplanting and harvesting were accompanied with traditional songs.  The average productivity in Kuttanad was recockoned as ‘10 Para for 1 para of seed’.  Considering the fragile ecosystem prevalent in Kuttanad, the incidence of crop failure was high. During the first three decades of reclamation the fields were cultivated only once in two or three years, allowing interval for the rejuvenation of the soil.

The early practice of cultivating Kuttanad paddy fields once in three years was changed to once in two years with increase in profitability of rice cultivation due to higher production. The fallowing of land in alternate years was named as “pazhanilam” in local parlance. At that time the demand for the staple food of Travancore people was met from Burma (Myanmar) which later stopped during the World War II.  This finally lead to food scarcity which resulted in a strong urge for self sufficiency  in  paddy production within the state. Then the Divan of Travancore Sir C.P.Ramaswamy Iyer ordered the farmers to cultivate their lands annually and keeping the land fallow as a punishable offence.  He also announced Pumping Subsidy to the farmers as an incentive for de-watering that amounts to 1/3rd of the expenses for pumping out water from the fields. Rice Research Station at Moncompu was also started in 1940 to develop ideal varieties to assist farmers. The first variety from this Station was introduced in 1978 as “Bhadra” which was suggested as an alternate to  the existing varieties cultivated at that time which were Athigra, PTB-10, PTB-4, PTB-22 etc. The varieties TN-1, IR-8 and  Jaya yielded thrice compared to the indigenous varieties  Chambav, Kulappala, Karivenna etc. which are early varieties. The entire area was converted to high yielding dwarf varieties by 1960s.  It was at this juncture with an objective to maximize food production, additional cropping season was introduced as ‘additional crop’.  The duration of the additional crop is from May / June to September / October.   This transformed to an organized structure of paddy cultivation during 1966 over an area of 4000 ha which increased to the present status of 10,000 ha.  The ‘Group Farming’ introduced in 1991 brought a boost to Paddy cultivation in Kuttanad.

The studies undertaken in this region for the intensification of paddy cultivation pointed out a speedy drainage of the flood water into the Vembanad lake and then into the sea.  The Kuttanad Development Project was designed by Sri. P.H.Vaidyanath, Executive Engineer  in Irrigation department at Alappuzha. The main tasks recommended in the Project that were executed as follows:

1.      The construction of Thottapplay  Spillway was constructed  in 1951 and commissioned in 1965 to drain flood water from the Kuttanad Wetland System to the Arabian sea

2.      The construction of the Thaneermukkam regulator across the Vembanad lake was started in 1955 and commissioned in 1975 to check the intrusion of saline water and to stabilize agricultural yield in    50,000 ha.

3.      The Construction of 24 km long link road between Alappuzha and Changanassery was completed in 1957 for easy communication and transport.

This ultimately led to the two distinct paddy seasons in Kuttanad as below:

Sl.No

Season

Period

Approximate Area in Ha

A

Puncha (Main crop-summer)

‘Rabi crop’

October to April

40000

B

Additional crop

‘Kharif crop’

May to August

10000

The important land marks which changed the agricultural scenario of Kuttanad was the abolition of slavery in Travancore in the mid 1850’s by which sale of slaves was banned. These slave workers were engaged in the agricultural activities from reclamation to stacking the hay after harvest.  The Pattam proclamation of 1865 granted the tenants full ownership rights over their property including the right to sell land and as a result they become economically independent Another major land mark in the Kuttanad Agricultural Scenario was the Lands Reforms Act in 1970s. In the past the paddy cultivation in Kuttanad was done under a three tier system as Land Lord-Tenant- Labour. This system disappeared with the enforcement of the above Act and many of the tenants became owners of the land. In 1942 an agricultural workers union was formed in Kuttanad with the initiative of the Communist Party. The Labour unionism helped to improve the service conditions of the organized labour  of Kuttanad.

Kuttanad Development Project --

Government of Kerala launched the 1st Kuttanad Development Project in 1972 to improve the infrastructure for paddy cultivation in Kuttanad.  The Kerala Land Development Corporation Ltd. was formed to implement the Project.  (Click here to view the Kuttanad Development Project).

Water Management - Netherlands Study Report

With the development of infrastructure for paddy cultivation over the years, it was felt that the Kuttanad Wetland System required ‘effective water management’ since the major constraint for paddy cultivation was excess water in the form of floods during monsoon and salinity during the lean season.  The Govt. of Kerala entrusted the Netherlands Govt. with the task of studying the Kuttanad wetland system & suggesting suitable measures for efficient water management considering the expertise of Netherlands in cultivation of crops under similar conditions.  The Netherlands Agricultural Identification Mission submitted its report in four volumes under the title Kuttanad Water Balance Study in 1989 (Click here to view the Report of the Kuttanad Water Balance Study by the Netherlands Government)

In spite of various developmental initiatives taken up by the Government of Kerala, the Kuttanad farmers faced serious problems.  Crop loss due to unseasonal or heavy monsoon, salt intrusion, pest and disease epidemics, poor seed quality, poor soil fertility, iron & aluminium toxicity appeared to be a recurrent phenomenon.  Coupled with poor infrastructure in the padasekharams, lack of crop diversification, lack of sufficient labour force & insufficient mechanization the misery of the farmers worsened day by day.  The ecology of this unique wetland also deteriorated due to excessive application of chemical fertilizers and pesticides and land degradation due to unscientific developments in the region.

KUTTANAD PACKAGE

When the Govt. of India announced the Vidharba Package for the development of 31 suicide prone districts across the country, Govt. of Kerala requested the Central Govt. to approve a separate Package for the Kuttanad region considering the unique problems faced in this agrarian ecosystem.  Govt. of India entrusted the M.S.Swaminathan Research Foundation, Chennai to study the problems faced in Kuttanad and suggest remedial measures.  The MSSRF submitted its Study Report to the Govt. of India in 2007 identifying 15 tasks covering about 50 different activities to mitigate agrarian distress in Alappuzha and Kuttanad Wetland System.  (Click here to view the Study Report of MSSRF).

The Govt. of India approved the Study Report and the interventions recommended by the MSSRF as a Package on 24th July 2008 (Click here to view the Cabinet Order). The Govt. of Kerala initiated the implementation of the Package in October 2008 with the formation of the Task Implementation Committee headed by the Agricultural Production Commissioner, Coordination Committee headed by the Chief Secretary and Prosperity Council chaired by the Hon’ble Chief Minister.  In December 2008, the State Govt. posted Shri. J.Justin Mohan, IFS as the 1st Project Director of the Kuttanad Package to facilitate & coordinate the implementation of the Rs. 1,840 crore Kuttanad Package. The task pertaining to the completion of the Detailed Project Reports for different activities is nearing completion and funds have started flowing from different ongoing Schemes of the Government.  Based on the Proposal submitted by the State Govt. the 13th Finance Commission awarded Rs. 300 crore for the implementation of the Package to strengthen the Kuttand ecosystem.

The Kuttanad Package was formally launched by Shri. V.S.Achuthanandan, Hon’ble Chief Minister of Kerala in a grand function at Moncompu on 5th September, 2010 which was presided over by Shri. K.V.Thomas, Hon’ble Union Minister of State for Agriculture.  The Flood Management Works were inaugurated by Shri. Pawan Kumar Bansal, Hon’ble Union Minister for Water Resources & Parliamentary Affairs in the presence of Shri. Mullakara Ratnakaran, Hon’ble Agriculture Minister, Shri. N.K.Premachandran, Hon’ble Water Resources Minister, MP’s and MLA’s of Kuttanad region. This ambitious Package is expected to be completed within the next 5 years covering 31,000 ha of paddy area in Alappuzha district, 18,067 ha of paddy area in Kottayam district and 5,868 ha of paddy area in Pathanamthitta district.