Kuttanad: A life in blue and green

DECCAN CHRONICLE | ABIN K.I.
Published Apr 17, 2014, 11:44 pm IST
Updated Apr 7, 2019, 7:47 pm IST
Where lush green paddy fields and blue waters together mesmerise visitors
 
Kuttanad: Kuttanad, the Rice Bowl of Kerala, is one of the most prominent tourist destinations because of its geographical peculiarities.
 
Located close to Vembanad Lake in Alappuzha district, Kuttanad is famous world wide for its unconventional system of paddy farming, done at few metres below sea level. A boat trip through the serene backwaters and a short stay in the colourful villages are among the most exotic experiences that Kuttanad offers to the visitors.
 
The tourist season in Kuttanad is at its peak from October to April as a pleasant climate prevails here throughout this season. One of the great advantages of the houseboat cruise in Kuttanad is that it enables one to watch and experience village life from close quarters without intruding the privacy of the people living there. The palm-fringed river banks and canals, the blue serenity of vast expanses of water and the stunning beauty of lush green paddy fields make for an indelible memory for all tourists coming to Kuttanad. Numerous snake boat races mark the celebration of Onam in Kuttanad. Season-based tourism products are the hallmark of Kuttanad tourism, which provides employment opportunities to the host community. 
 
Vembanad Lake
 
Vembanad Lake is the largest tropical wetland ecosystem in the South West coast of India. Vembanad’s scenic environment with elaborate network of canals and backwaters flanked by coconut palms, extensive paddy fields that are below mean sea level, large flocks of birds and the warm hospitality of the people prompted the National Geographic Travel Magazine to declare Kerala as a must-see tourist destination. The wetlands of Vembanad-Kol is the largest Ramsar site in India. Vembanad Lake is the hub of backwater tourism in the state.
 
Thanneermukkam Bund
 
The Thanneermukkam regulator erected across Vembanad Lake between Thanneermukkam and Vechoor prevents the impact of tidal action and intrusion of salt water. This largest mud regulator has partitioned the Vembanad wetland into a fresh water lake on the south and a brackish lagoon on the north. To prevent the entry of saline water, the shutters of the regulator are shut down during highest tide, vrischika veliyettam, which usually occurs mid-December. The shutters of the regulator remain closed until mid-March, allowing the completion of the harvest of the punja crop. The regulator was relatively successful in preventing saline water intrusion into Kuttanad and in fact doubled the yield during the initial years. 
Thottappally spillway is another must see attraction of Kuttanad.
 
People here use small country crafts as a mode of transportation in order to access the nearby islands. As the Kuttanad region is covered with vast stretches of paddy fields and water bodies like rivers, lakes and canals, it is also an abode of migratory and indigenous birds. A walk through the paddy fields in the wind enthralls every visitor. Kuttanad provides a glimpse into how the villagers’ occupational activities like farming and fishing are associated with the nature. For a tourist, Kuttanad is a must- see destination as it offers many exceptional sights which cannot be experienced in any other part of the world. 
 
Agricultural heritage
 
Kuttanad is one among the few spaces in the state which still relies on its traditional agricultural systems and practices. One among them is the traditional water wheel and box made of wood. The releasing of the water into the paddy fields by revolving the wheel using legs is a sight which excites every one.
 
An integrated farming initiative was launched in Kuttanad in order to rejuvenate the ailing agricultural sector of the world renowned wetland. The three broad categories of activities include revival of farming, ecological rehabilitation and enhancement of the livelihood of the host community. During 2013, the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) granted heritage status for the below sea level farming system in Kuttanad. Kuttanad is currently having the Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System (GIAHS) tag.
 
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