ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846
Reader Mode
-A A +A

Kuttanad after the Flood

Krishnanunni R ( is a student at the Department of Political Science and Public Administration, University of Madras, Chennai. Vishnu Achutha Menon (vishnuamenon@gmail.comis a doctoral scholar at the Department of Media and Communication, Central University of Tamil Nadu, Neelakudi.

The central and state governments must find a long-term solution for the constant flooding woes of Kuttanad in Kerala.

We recently visited Kuttanad, after the Kerala floods. Kuttanad, in Alappuzha district, is not just another tourist destination. Commonly known as the “Venice of East,” for its rich backwaters and paddy fields set like jewels upon the crown of Alappuzha, it also has unique geographical traits. Situated 2.2 metres below sea level, the abode of Vembanad—the largest lake in the state which stretches from Alappuzha to Ernakulam district and is dotted with houseboats—is also home to a variety of unique flora and fauna. Another peculiarity of this terrain is the four major rivers—Pampa, Manimala, Meenachil, and Achankovil—that run through it. These rivers and lakes help the land abound with fertility and aid water-intensive paddy cultivation. However, these waterbodies also often distress people with constant floods and droughts.

The recent monsoons, which unleashed catastrophe across Kerala, struck Kuttanad harshly, making life for its inhabitants more miserable. Even though Kuttanad has seen worse floods before, this unexpected trauma has left a scar that will take time to heal. The green hues from Kuttanad’s paddy fields were completely wiped out, where 9,907 hectares of paddy fields that were expected to harvest 50,000 tonnes were drowned, amounting to about 90% of the cultivation having been washed out. Roadways were not navigable and rowboats became the mode of transportation, with shortfall of basic amenities making life for its inhabitants even more miserable. People were forced to flee to relief camps and other safe spots, making them “climate refugees,” and even now they continue to nurse fears that all this may happen on a large scale in the region again. Kuttanad was affected drastically, and major efforts are required now to resurrect its tourism industry. Backwater fishing, which constitutes a major source of earning for the people of this region has collapsed too, whereas usually the rainy season is considered to be the season of bounty for the fisherfolk because of the abundance of fish.

The first question we encountered from the locals while witnessing the problems of Kuttanad was: “When normalcy has been restored in other parts of the state, why is Kuttanad struggling to get back on its feet? Kerala is witnessing such a flood for the first time in a century, whereas flooding is a frequent occurrence in the waterlogging-prone Kuttanad.” While the enthusiasm shown by the state government in facing the disaster was quite appreciable and the floods have provided a valuable lesson on the need for proper water governance, the question that needs to be addressed is: With Kuttanad being a flood-prone region, why has the government not taken steps to find a permanent solution for this?

Poor drainage facilities is one of the prime reasons for the floods, and has not yet been dealt with. The role of unscientific road construction, which has curtailed the natural flow of streams and rivers, is undeniable in this catastrophe. In the land of backwaters and the abode of the largest freshwater lake in the state, people were struggling to access fresh drinking water, with those in isolated regions having to travel around seven kilometres on rowboats to get to drinking water. “Water, water, everywhere, /Nor any drop to drink” sums up the global drinking water crisis, and Kuttanad remains a classic example. As per a study conducted by the Centre for Water Resources Development and Management (CWRDM), Kozhikode, more than 80% of its people depend on contaminated water, and a large proportion of these people still use water without proper purification.

It is essential to take holistic measures to resurrect Kuttanad and make sure that its people are safe because the contribution of this place is indispensable to Kerala. The tale of Kuttanad has immense significance and, as the land lies below sea level and the threat of climate change grows stronger, both the country and the state have to take initiatives to preserve Kuttanad’s unique biodiversity which possesses immense cultural and economic value.


Updated On : 30th Nov, 2018


(-) Hide

EPW looks forward to your comments. Please note that comments are moderated as per our comments policy. They may take some time to appear. A comment, if suitable, may be selected for publication in the Letters pages of EPW.

Back to Top