Kuttanad will get a heritage museum that showcases its unique below-sea-level ecosystem, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said here on Wednesday.

Participating in the silver jubilee celebrations of the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF), Mr. Chandy said a centre for genetic resources for seawater and below-sea-level farming was also proposed at Mancombu.

The Chief Minister was here to receive from President Pranab Mukherjee a plaque from the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations declaring Kuttanad’s below-sea-level farming system a Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System.

Second after Koraput

Mr. Chandy said a major eco-development plan mentored by the MSSRF was under way at Kuttanad, which was only the second farming system after Koraput (Orissa) to be accorded heritage status by the FAO in India.

Kuttanad had over two centuries of farmers’ toil evolved a unique rice farming system of paddy-fish cycle on lands that were 2.5-3 metres below the sea level.

“And, unlike the Netherlands, where concrete bunds are constructed to keep away the saline seawater, the Kuttanad farmers developed ‘bio-bunds’ constructed from coir, banana waste, bamboo, clay and other locally available material,” Mr. Chandy said.

Declaring a commitment to redouble efforts to develop and protect such unique ecosystems, Mr. Chandy said the State government had sanctioned funds for establishing an International Research and Training Institute for Below-Sea-Level Farming. The institute would have a sustainable Agriculture Research Centre at Mancombu and a Sustainable Fisheries Centre at Kumarakom, he said.

The Chief Minister thanked Dr. Swaminathan and the MSSRF for preparing the Kuttanad Package and the documentation of the farming system that led to the FAO recognition.

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