In flood-prone Kuttanad, a canal is in the works for seven decades

Many reports moot completion of AC canal to reduce flooding, but encroachments pose a problem

In the early 1950s, the then Travancore Government had drawn up a detailed plan for the development of the Kuttanad region with three major components — construction of a spillway at Thottappally, building a saltwater barrage at Thanneermukkom, and a road-cum-canal connecting Alappuzha and Changanassery.

The first two components and the first part of the third element, the 24-km Alappuzha- Changanassery (AC) road, materialised over a period of time. But, the Alappuzha-Changanassery (AC) canal, parallel to the AC road, meant to drain excess water from the Manimala and Pampa rivers to Vembanad Lake has remained incomplete for almost seven decades after it was first mooted.

Three stretches

With heavy downpours and recurring floods tormenting the rice bowl of Kerala of late, many feel the completion of the canal would help alleviate flooding in Kuttanad to some extent. The canal consists of three stretches and only the reach between Manakkachira and Onnamkara has been completed. Although the government has announced plans for the deepening and opening of the canal from Onnamkara to Nedumudi, and from Nedumudi to Pallathuruthy, the project remains on paper.

“The opening of the canal will definitely reduce floods. The aim of the AC canal is to divert water from the Manimala river. Although the canal starts from Manakkachira, the water from Manimala enters the channel at Kidangara. Once it is opened fully, it would prevent floodwaters from spreading in areas like Veliyanad, Kavalam, Ramankary, Neelamperoor and so on. There is no need to acquire land for the opening of the second and third reaches. The government needs to remove encroachments, land fillings and blockages,” says a resident of Kuttanad who is also the regional representative of a not-for-profit organisation working in agricultural and rural development.

Houses, shops take shape

Various reports, including the ones prepared by the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation in 2007 and Kerala State Planning Board (KSPB) in 2019, called for the urgent completion of the AC canal. “The completion of the AC Canal is essential for the efficient drainage of floodwater. A potential constraint is encroachments into the area. A considerable extent of this space is occupied by households, shops and other establishments along the AC Road. These encroachments need to be vacated and work on the AC canal completed at the original width of 40 m,” reads the report titled ‘A special package for post-flood Kuttanad’ by the KSPB.

Officials, meanwhile, said the government was considering extending the canal to Nedumudi and then to Pallathuruthy. The government had entrusted the IIT, Madras, to conduct a hydrodynamic study.

Jayan Champakulam, district secretary, Kerala Sasthra Sahithya Parishad, called for proper study before opening the second and third reaches as there remained a chance of water intruding to the canal from the Pampa river at Nedumudi.

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