Kuttanad’s ‘petti and para’ are being replaced by 20-HP pumps for dewatering paddy fields
A.K. Kunjumon, a pump operator, is busy draining out the excess water from the 110-acre Kombankuzhy padasekharam (paddy field). He operates two different pumping mechanisms to dewater the field – ‘petti and para’ (pettiyum parayum), which uses indigenous technology and a 20-HP modern water-cooled pump.
“This one is a new addition,” says Mr. Kunjumon, referring to the 20-HP pump, which the padasekhara samithi installed after the 2018 great deluge. “The floods had exposed the limitations of petti and para. The new pump is draining floodwaters more quickly,” he adds.
‘Petti and para’, the traditional dewatering mechanism, which has been in use in Kuttanad for around 100 years has withstood the test of time so far. However, with recurring floods and technological advancement, its days seem to be numbered.
Padashekhara samithis and farmers are slowly scrapping the age-old dewatering technique for more energy-efficient and low-maintenance advanced systems.
Petti (a submerged cylindrical vessel with an impeller) and para (an outlet in the shape of a rectangular box to pump water) are made of wood. The electric motor, another component of the dewatering mechanism, is connected to the shaft of the impeller by a belt. The water is lifted from the petti to the para before discharging to canals or backwaters.
While a majority of padasekhara samithis such as Kombankuzhy are still operating ‘petti and para’, there are some who have completely migrated to modern dewatering mechanisms, setting a trend for others to follow.
The Padinjare Mangalassery padasekharam in Ramankary is one among them. The padasekhara samithi there installed a vertical axial flow pump with the help of M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation and a private bank last year.
Less time consuming
“Using petti and para would take more than six days to dewater the paddy field for the puncha cultivation (first crop). The vertical axial flow pump has drained the water in three days. It consumes less electricity and we save money on manpower, maintenance and power,” says George Mathew Vachaparambil, president, Padinjare Mangalassery padasekhara samithi.
While petti and para needs huge storage space and chances of it getting damaged in floods is high, advanced systems such as the one installed at Padinjare Mangalassery, which was developed locally, can be dismantled and stored safely.
“Kuttanad’s below sea level farming system is a Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System. If the farming practice is to sustain, we need to put technology and innovative solutions to the best use. The agriculture in Kuttanad needs to be modernised,” says Jibin Thomas, coordinator, M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation, Kuttanad Centre.
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