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| Last Updated:: 02/03/2023

Importance of Kuttanad



Importance of Kuttanad

             The Kuttanad landscape comprises around 1100 km2 of which about 304 km2 lies below sea level. The land which is presently inhabitated by human population, is developed by reclaiming the waterlogged areas over the years. Kuttanad is drained by a nerwork of rivers and man-made channels. The main feature of the drainage system is the Vembanad lake that was formerly a large lagoon. The tidal flow into this lake is controlled by a regulator at Thaneermukkom. This network of canals and bunds throughout its entire extent gave it the sorbiquet Holland of Kerala. The landform of Kuttanad comprises of Kayalnilangal (8100 hectares), Karinilangal (6,075 ha) and Karappadangal (42,505 ha). Kayalnilangal is below the sea level. Though the soil is acidic, if the saline intrusion is prevented, the area can be utilised for paddy cultivation twice in a year. Karinilangal is waterlogged and due to the presence of high acidity, this contributes only very little to the cultivable land. Karappadam is the land, which has been reclaimed over the years. North Kuttanad, mid Kuttanad and upper Kuttanad comprises the Karappadams.This is comparatively fertile and is less affected by saline water intrusion. North Kuttanad is prevented from salt intrusion by the Thaneermukkom Regulator.

                The water inflow of Kuttanad is mainly controlled by four river systems originating from the Western Ghats region viz.,Meenachil, Manimala, Pamba and Achencoil, which ultimately drain into Kuttanad. Hydroelectric and irrigation projects in these rivers determine the water flow to the Kuttanad. The human interventions and resulting land use changes in the upstream of these rivers cause serious consequences in the ecological conditions of the downstream areas. The total basin area of these four rivers comes to around 5838 km2. The floodwater enter Kuttanad from the upstream catchments during the monsoon period. The flood water from these rivers carries considerable sediment load that spreads out on the lowland. During high floods water overflows bunds over to the roads and homesteads and cause serious havoc. Farming is the main occupation of the people of Kuttanad. Paddy cultivation predominates in the low land. Coconut palms are planted on bunds and reclaimed lands. The extent of coconut cultivation is increasing. Pepper, banana and yarms are also cultivated in certain areas. The reclamation of land for habitation and raising homestead cultivation has reduced the available are for floodwater storage, which results in the rise of flood levels. The problem of Kuttanad is mainly attributed to the mismanagement of its hydrological regime. When the development was underway, hydrological aspects were not given due consideration which finally resulted in its present ecological crisis.


The area suffers regularly from

  • Flooding and salt water intrusion which limit the growing season to a few months. 
  • Lack of drinking water in the dry season because of salinity intrusion, various types of pollution etc. 
  • Lack of dry land to build settlements, leading to very high population densities on the reclaimed bunds. 
  • Poor road network because of the number of criss-crossing water courses, leading to a dependence on water transport.


Reference: State of Environment Report 2007, Vol 1, Kerala State Council for Science Technology and Environment.


MSSF Kuttanad Report 2007