The Centre's sanctioning of the Rs. 1840 crore Kuttanad package, which is to include measures for strengthening the ecology security of Kuttanad wetland eco-system and expand sustainable livelihood opportunities for the people of the region,' will turn four years on Tuesday.

The experts who had been in watching the implementation of the project formally launched on September 5, 2010 said a project directorate should be formed for the timely and efficient implementation of the package. The project encompass such a vast canvas that a project director alone could not be able to run the project now being conducted by 12 various departments\agencies of the Government. Effective machinery should work for the successful implementation of the project.

Experts claim that the important aspect here is to ask the question of what the philosophy of the package is all about. It is doubtful that most of the team that is behind the implementation of the project had gone through the original report itself. Though the essence of the package calls for environmental or ecological restoration for Kuttanad wetland system and to expand the livelihood opportunities of the people there, what is now being undertaken is a `spending spree'.

Unfortunately now the infrastructure aspects have been given the focus including bund construction and canal construction. "But these are all means to an end. But here we forgot the end. A lot of controversies about the implementation have pulled down the morale of the people associated with it to such an extent that the people are not willing to work", one of the experts observed.

Another major drawback is the domination of administrators who handle the project instead of involving experts. These administrators are groping in the dark. The involvement of experts including technical experts is very much needed. Now there is no technical review committee which could analyse the technical aspects of each and every project, the experts say. Another lacunae pointed out in the system is that meetings held every day bog down the staff who are left with little time to work. Their time is consumed by meetings held almost on a daily basis. The right thing is to meet at specific periods only and that is the best management practice too, they point out.

A prominent activist of Kerala Sastra Sahitya Parishad (KSSP), M. Gopakumar, who had studied the package, said that what was now being implemented as part of the package does not make much sense. The package called for eco-restoration and what are now seen are construction activities. "Shortage of seeds is a major problem affecting paddy farmers in Kuttanad. Though the package talks about it, there is nothing done on the implementation side now," he observed.

The package also calls for water-balance, which is vital to the paddy cultivation in Kuttanad. However, the Governemnt is yet to frame policies based on a report of Chennai IIT submitted to it regarding Thottappaly spillway and Thaneermukkom barrage. "There are issues like widening the spillway to 300 metres and rehabilitation issues linked to it. But the Government has not applied its mind on it till now," he said.

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