Kuttanad is a place of stunning beauty in the backwaters of Kerala (India), with vast rice paddy fields, rivers and narrow canals lined with coconut trees. The region is fed by four rivers and spreads across the Alappuzha and Kottayam Districts of the state. A few of the major picturesque villages in Kuttanad are Kainakary (the birthplace of Saint Chavara), Edathua, Kainady, Pulincunoo, Veliyanadu and Champakulam. It is one of the few places in the world where farming is carried out 4 to 10 feet below sea level using bio-saline farming techniques. Branded as “Gods Own Country” for its natural beauty, the region has become one of India’s major tourist destinations with its unique house-boats and world-famous boat race, known in the local language, Malayalam, as “Vallamkalli”
Rice is the most important agricultural product and source of income for the region known as “The Rice Bowl of Kerala”. The history of rice paddy cultivation in Kuttanad can be traced back centuries. The evolution of paddy cultivation correlated with technological advancement during the 19th and 20th centuries through which land was reclaimed from the shallow part of the Vembanad Lake. Bailing out the water for cultivation was initially done manually with water-wheels and eventually by steam engines. This helped increase the number of crops from two every year to three crops a year on land reclaimed from the Vembanad Lake. The other major source of income is tourism.
The recent floods across Kerala have been the worst in over 90 years and caused damages estimated at over USD 3 Billion. The low-lying areas of Kuttanad have been particularly devastated. The region barely survived the heavy rainfall in July and August, however when the dams upriver reached dangerous levels and their gates were opened, houses in the whole region were flooded leaving the majority homeless. Over 100,000 people have been evacuated and over 200,000 more have been stranded with no water or food in Kuttanad. The Pulincunoo hospital is now operating from the Alappuzha Carmel School. The government disaster management teams and private companies are working together to evacuate people to mainland Alappuzha in ferries, house boats and other vessels
The national and state government resources have been overwhelmed. Financial aid and assistance from the Kerala Chief Ministers Fund have been slow to reach affected areas and it’s insufficient to address the damage and rebuilding costs. Flood waters have slowly receded in many areas, but we now enter the most difficult recovery phase. Thousands of families are discovering their homes have been completely destroyed by the flooding and will have to be re-built.