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Water scarcity affects paddy cultivation

When they set out to revitalise a fallow piece of land, hardly did they expect the problem of water scarcity to put a spanner in their works. A group of students, part of the National Service Scheme (NSS) unit at the Sree Chitra Thirunal College of Engineering, Pappanamcode, who have taken up cultivation in 30 cents of land near their college, are now facing a water crisis owing to a blocked canal, part of the Neyyar irrigation project.

The students started cultivation on a part of the Koliyakkode paddy fields, stretching to 7 hectares, last December. They took up the entire work of preparing the field, which has been lying uncultivated for the past two years, and sowing. But since February, they have been facing a severe shortage of water. They have been depending on a garbage-filled waterbody and wells in nearby houses for watering the crop. But now with water level in the wells reducing rapidly, the students are doubtful whether they can harvest the crop as expected in April.
Students of the NSS unit of Sree Chithra Thirunal Engineering College, Pappanamcode, watering the paddy fields which they cultivate.
They say that the main reason for the stoppage of paddy cultivation here was the clogging of the Neyyar irrigation project canal a few years ago with garbage. At present the water reaches only till Nemom and due to two major blocks at the Vellayani studio and the Vidhyadhiraja Homoeo College, the water does not reach till Pappanamcode.

In what is seen as an after effect of the clogging of the canal, as many as 11 ponds in the Nemom area have almost dried up in the past few years. Though an amount of Rs.14 lakh was allocated to clean up the clogged canal, the contractor who took up the work left it half way through. Re-tendering processes has also not happened.

The students fear that the continuing water scarcity will result in the entire paddy field going back to the fallow state, which might pave the way for real estate lobbies to fill it up.

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'36,000 tonnes of rice to be sold through Maveli stores'

The Kerala State Civil Supplies Corporation (Supplyco) will sell 36,000 tonnes of rice through Maveli stores during the Onam-Ramzan season this year, Food and Civil Supplies Minister Anoop Jacob said on Friday. He was speaking after inaugurating the Onam-Ramzan People’s Bazaar at the Putharikandam Maidan here. “The government was planning to market 10,000 tonnes more compared to the corresponding period last year,” the Minister said, adding that it would suffice to check the price rise in the open market.
Civil Supplies Minister Anoop Jacob and Health Minister V S Sivakumar visiting the sales counter of Supplyco Onam-Ramzan Metro People’s Bazaar after the inauguration at Putharikandam in Thiruvananthapuram on Friday | Express Photo
“Despite an increase of 11 to 15 per cent in the prices of commodities sold through the Supplyco, the prices were still 40 per cent lower when compared to the open market,” the Minister said.

“Only 15 per cent of the food consumed in the state is locally produced. Famine in states such as Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu would seriously affect Kerala. This year, the Onam bazaars would be there for 45 days,” the Minister said.

“The Centre had assured that steps would be taken to ensure that the Food Security Bill does not affect the state adversely,” Health Minister V S Sivakumar, who presided over the function, said.  He also made the first sale. Supplyco managing director Shyam Jagannathan and general manager George Joseph were present.

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Funds fail to boost paddy farming

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The state government has been trying hard to push the declining paddy cultivation by allocating huge funds and proposing innovative projects in the last two budgets, but these initiatives have not made much of a positive change in the sector.

The latest land use pattern released by the planning board show that the net sown area in the state declined by 1.5% in the past two years. The rice cultivated area decreased by 5,027 hectares in these years while there has been an increase of 5,727 hectares in the area of fallow land.

Of the total geographical area of 38.86 lakh hectares, the net sown area now stands at 53% while the total food grain production reached 0.6 lakh tonnes last year. Essential food crops like rice, pulses and tapioca occupy just 10.8% of the total gross cropped area of 26.6 lakh hectares.

"It is a matter of concern that the area of paddy fields is decreasing year after year. The paddy fields, in the low lands, have a greater environmental role to play in conserving water and rejuvenating ground water resources. The increase in fallow land would invariably increase the possibility of reclamation of paddy fields in the coming years," warns environmentalist M K Prasad.

He says many projects like rice bio parks still remain on paper as officials are not pushing for the implementation of the project in an effective manner. "The state should take a few lessons from Tamil Nadu, which is doing a marvellous job in running effective rice-parks," he says.

Finance minister K M Mani has, in this year's budget, made a huge allocation for agriculture sector and set aside Rs 200 crore for various projects. Last year, Mani had introduced concepts like rice-parks and high tech agriculture to increase productivity.

"The main advantages of high-tech farming are capacity to overcome climate change, increased productivity and improved quality. We have also introduced concepts like high-tech farming and micro irrigation, capable of controlled and effective utilization of water, green house farming techniques with minimal dependency on soil and usage of advanced hybrid seeds," a senior official said.

On the positive side, the production of rice has increased by 281 kg/hectare in the past two years. "This is due to better usage of mechanised technology. But more needs to be done to encourage farmers to sow paddy and not let the paddy fields become just fallow lands," said a senior official with agriculture department.

"Kerala is facing a serious challenge in maintaining the meagre agriculture area. The state's agriculture economy is undergoing structural transformation from mid-seventies and over a large proportion of its traditional crop area which was devoted to subsistence crops like rice and tapioca to more remunerative crops like banana and plantation crops," the state planning board had said.

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