Niranam: The paddy fields of Upper Kuttanad show no sign of a devastating flood that submerged most of Kerala just seven months ago. The farmlands have cracked up in an unusually warm start to the summer as irrigation canals dried up in the Niranam and Peringara areas.
About 30 acres of paddy have withered away without irrigation at Ayyankonari in the Niranam panchayat, agriculture department officials said. The water shortage is acute in the Ward 1 and Ariyodichal areas too.
The farmers said that they do not have motor pumps powerful enough to draw water from the Pampa and Manimala rivers to the canals. Their pumps are only suitable to draw water from the canals to the fields.
The farmers in one of the most fertile of fields in Kerala are staring at a crisis. Most of the paddy will be ready for harvest within a month. The rice plants would wither away in that time in the absence of irrigation. The problem is already manifested in areas including the Panakeri, Vengal, Irukara, Kaippala east areas in the Peringara panchayat.
The farmers will have a tough time selling the low-quality rice to state procurement agencies such as Supplyco. Researchers from the Kerala Agricultural University Rice Research Station at Mancombu and officials of the irrigation department visited the areas.
The farmers said that the problem could be partly addressed if the canals are dredged and cleared of sludge and water hyacinth. The irrigation department's effort to dredge a 500-metre stretch of the Kolara river has not been effective.
K C Thomas, a farmer who has cultivated 1.7 acres in the Ayyankonari fields, is desolate. He said that he was not hopeful of harvesting even a single grain this time. He said that he had had to borrow Rs 30,000 ahead of this season, of which Rs 7,000 went into just clearing the field of the debris left behind by the August flood.
Another farmer, Thomas Varghese, said that the paddy fields could be irrigated if a bund is built on the Pampa river and a 50 Bhp motor is installed to pump water into the canals.