Friday, February 1, 2008

From Geographical Gridlock to Economic Impasse—The Chronicle of Kuttanadu:
A Region Deranged.

[Keynote paper presented in the Workshop on “Kuttanadu Studies” organised by St. Berchmans’ College, Changanacherry, Kerala, India, in participation with IVO, Tilburg University, The Netherlands ,on January 23-24, 2002]

The study analyses the developmental problems of Kuttanadu region of Kerala state, India. The region has geographical similarities with The Netherlands as both lie below sealevel. Kuttanadu region is often considered as the rice bowl of Kerala. But the region is facing a crisis in paddy cultivation. Several projects were implemented to support the agriculture in Kuttanadu, but all failed to deliver the promised results. It is in this backdrop the study surveys major development projects implemented in this region and the analyses the crisis in Kuttanadu afresh.

The study undeniably displays that there is no pari passu relationship between decrease in paddy cultivation in Kuttanadu and Kerala. The index of area under production to the state as a whole decreased from 100 to 45.9 during the period of 1956-57 to 1999-2000. The index of area under Mundakan and Punja also inscribed a downfall, nevertheless painted a better picture than that of the former. The index stood at 57.4 and 76.6 in 1999-2000 respectively.

But, the index of Virippu crop fared badly and took a tailspin to 31.2 in 1999-2000.Thus it is obvious that crisis in paddy to the state as a whole is chiefly due to the decrease witnessed in the case of Virippu crop. Moreover, Virippu accounted for more than 50% of the area during 1956-57 by declined to near 30% by around 2000. The Punja crop has nothing to do with it as its share almost doubled during the same period.

Furthermore, it found that the factors responsible for the nosedive in area under paddy in Kuttanadu is region specific rather than state specific and wherefore should be dealt accordingly.

It is now pretty obvious that the decrease in area for Punja crop is valid only to Alappuzha district. The area and index to non-Alappuzha districts almost plateaued during the reference period while in case of production they marched towards new heights. The inference is that the reasons for dip in area under paddy in Kuttanadu are quite different to that of the decrease to the state as a whole. Had it been not so, the area under Punja crop in non-Alappuzha district would have been not remained almost unchanged.

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Contents of the Paper

1 Contours of Kuttanadu

1.1 Mythological Roots and Historical Facts
1.2 Different Conjectures and the Term Kuttanadu
1.3 Antiquity and Prominence of Kuttanadu
1.4 Geographical Boundaries and Definition of Kuttanad
1.5 Location
1.6 Formation of Kuttanadu Thaluk
1.7 Climate
1.8 Geology of Kuttanadu
1.9 Soils of Kuttanadu
1.10 Geographical Features of Kuttanadu
1.10.1 The Pamba River System
1.10.2 The Vembanadu Lake

2 Pigeonhole of Land in Kuttanadu

2.1 Taxology of Wetlands of Kuttanadu
2.1.1 Kayal Padsekharams
2.1.2 Padasekharam in Bund Areas
2.1.3 The Kari Lands
2.1.4 Karapadoms
2.1.5 Kolappala Lands

3 A Wee History of Paddy Cultivation: A Detour

3.1 The Cultivation Practices

4 Genesis of Land Reclamation: A Tangent

4.1 Types of Land Reclamation

4.1.1 Natural Reclamation
4.1.2 Passive Reclamations
4.1.3 Deliberate Reclamations

4.2 Prospect of Kayal Reclamation
4.3 Respite in Reclamation
4.4 Kuttanadu Incandescent: The Era of Progressive Reclamations
4.5 The Process of Kayal Reclamation
4.6 Gilt-Edged Vision and Grit –Edged Mission: Anecdotes of Kuttanadan Chaebols
4.7 Economic Features of Kayal Reclamation and Cultivation
4.8 Meier’s “Double Dualism” and Theoretical Underpinnings of Kayal Cultivation
4.9 The R-Block Reclamation or “The Holland Scheme"

5 Freaks Of Nature and the Extent of Damage

5.1 Floods
5.2 Salinity
5.3 Acidity
5.4 Pests and Diseases
5.5 Problem of Weeds
5.6 The Problem of Transportation

6 Attempts to Unlock the Grid Lock of Nature

6.1 The Backdrop
6.2 Kuttanadu Development Scheme (KDS)
6.3 First Stage of KDS

6.3.1 Thottappally Spill Way
6.3.2 Thanneermukkom Salt Water Barrage
6.3.3 A-C Road

6.4 Expected Benefits from the Schemes
6.5 A Broadside on the Benefits

7 From Permanent Bunds to Semi-Submersible Permanent Bunds

7.1 Nature of Temporary Bunds and the Idea of Permanent Bunds 7.2 The Idea of Semi-Submersible Bunds and the KLDC Project

7.2.1 The Necessity of Semi-Submersible Permanent Bunds
7.2.2 Objectives of the Project
7.2.3 The Cropping Season
7.2.4 The Assumption of Kuttanadu Development Project
7.2.5 The Project in a Nutshell

8 Kuttanadu Paddy Cultivation Development Project

9 Second Thoughts on Schemes Implemented In Kuttanadu

9.1 Density of Kuttanadu
9.2 Interface of High Density, Dearth of Cultivable Land and Nature’ Fury
9.3 Food Scarcity and Paddy Development Projects
9.4 Stabilising Agriculture of Kuttanadu: A Mission Unaccomplished


  1. gud post ,useful
    thank you.

  2. Hi Mr.Santhosh,
    My sincere congratulation to the great effort you have put in this project. At the same time I would like to point out some facts which were intentionally or unintentionally ignored by any of them who wrote on Kuttanadu Kayal Reclamation.
    The pioneering effort of Kayal reclamation was that of Venad Kayal which was made soon after the Pattom Proclamation by Travencore Rajas.This reclamation was carried out by two brothers(Pallithanathu Mathai Lukka and Ouseph Lukka) belonging to the Pallithanam family of Kainady village in Kuttanadu.
    Since both of them died at a young age, the Kayal reclamation started by them was taken over by son of Mathai Lukka. His name was Pallithanthu Mathaichan(Lukka Mathai). He eventually became the member of Sree Moolam Thirunal’s Praja Sabha.
    The life of Pallithanathu Mathaichan is the history of kayal reclamation in Kuttanad. Believe it or not, he started his kayal reclamation efforts at a very young age of eighteen years. In 1900 he along with some other families reclaimed Cherukara Kayal and Pallithanam Moovayiram. Following are the list of Kayal Nilam’s reclaimed under his leadership.
    Cherukara Kayal, Pallithanam moovayiram and Raja Ramapuram 1,400 Acrs
    Madathil kayal(I’m not sure of the area should be around 1,000Acrs).
    E Block Kayal 2,400 Acrs
    H Block Kayal 1,400 Acrs
    R Block Kayal 1,400 Acrs.
    Out of the 5,500 Acrs of total area of reclamation till 1931 he owned around 800Acrs and was instrumental in the reclamation of 5,000 Acrs.
    During those times reclamation was mostly a cooperative movement. The importance of him is that he was smart enough to coordinate the farmer community for their common good. He can be considered as the father of cooperative farming convention which is still prevalent in Kuttanad. He spear headed the ‘Krina Nivarana Samaram’ which eventually resulted in the enactment of Agricultural Debt Relief Act. He along with other prominent farmers in 1931 founded Kuttanadu Karshaka Sangham .
    Before boarding the last bus of Kayal reclamation, Muricken joined Paliithanthu Mathaichan in reclaiming R Block kayal.
    Though many middle class farmers during his time thrived to prosperity under his shelter very few really admits that fact.
    Another point is your reference to Holland scheme in R Block. R Block was originally reclaimed by the cooperative effort of eight Christian families in Kuttanadu. They are Pallithanam, Mangalappaly, Ettupara, Meledom, Kanadkudy, Murikkan, Puthenpura and Pattassery for paddy cultivation. When paddy cultivation became unprofitable they thought of trying other crops. But flood was the main hindrance. In order to overcome it they proposed for protecting it with permanent bund. It was not a decision taken in isolation by the two people named by Comrade. Kamalasanan.

    You could find three distinct stages of Kayal reclamation in Kuttanadu.
    1 Between the year of Pattom Proclamation till 1903 when the ban on Kayal reclamation imposed by Travencoore. During this period Venad, Cherukara Kayal, Pallithanam Moovayiram Kayal , Rama Rajapuram Kayal’s Madathil kayal and Mathi kayal were reclaimed.
    2. After the removal of ban in the year 1912 to 1925during which time C Block, D Block, E Block etc were reclaimed
    3. 1931 to 1943 H Block KL block MN block, R Block, Q, S and T blocks were reclaimed.
    In its absolute sense, Kayal reclamation should be understood as reclamation of cultivable land from the deeper section of the Vembanad Lake. The significant characteristics of which is the steep canal that surrounds the Kayal Nilam. Based on this criterion the first reclamation effort should be the reclamation of Cherukara Kayal.
    I hope these inputs will be helpful for you. Also I trust you may consider these facts while finalizing your project.