The Kuttanad Vikasana Samithi has demanded replacement of the age-old pump-sets in the R-Block of Kuttanad that are used to pump water out of the area round the clock to enable life and agriculture in the block, which exists two metres below sea level.

KVS executive director Thomas Peelianickal, pointing out that the existing pumps were used to pump water out of 1,450 acres of land, where 325 farmers cultivate coconut trees, cocoa, banana, vanilla and areca palms. The total population in the block is 112 families, including a colony of 35 Dalit families.

Twenty-three centrifugal pumps, with capacities ranging from 30 hp (horse power) to 60 hp, are used round the clock to drain water to enable cultivation and life on the block without fearing floods. However, with the existing pumps being up to 45 years old, many were in dire need of replacement. At least eight new pump sets of 60 hp capacity were required urgently while at least 12 of the existing had to be completely replaced. There were power supply issues too, Fr. Peelianickal said, recalling that supply to the region was cut off for nearly three weeks in June, resulting in an agricultural loss of about Rs. 5 crore. Even when the supply was intact, 18 pumps were not getting adequate voltage to be operated, leading to serious repercussions for the crop and the inhabitants of R-Block, he said.

The pumps, he suggested, could be included in the mechanisation projects recommended in the M.S. Swaminathan Commission's Kuttanad Package, in which Rs. 85 crore has been earmarked for mechanisation. A proposed power sub-station in the nearby H-Block too should be given permission and work completed on it at the earliest, he said.

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