Surrounded by filthy flood waters for the past 36 days, and under the threat of monsoon-related diseases, the people of Upper Kuttanad have been leading miserable lives since the beginning of the monsoon.
Flood-affected families in the Upper Kuttanad villages of Peringara, Niranom, Nedumpram, Kadapra and a portion of Kuttoor are seeking help from the authorities concerned in finding a lasting solution to this grave problem.
Official records show that as many as 1,200 houses and 50 settlement colonies in this part of Upper Kuttanad have been inundated in the recent floods. As many as 4,123 people were shifted to various flood relief camps opened by the district administration during June 17 and July 22.
As per official data, six persons have been drowned, 88 houses were destroyed and crop worth Rs 1.48 crore have been lost in the floods that ravaged the region during the period.
However, the actual loss will be much higher than the official figures and not to speak of the sufferings of the affected people, says Peringara panchayat president Sam Eapen..
With the monsoon picking up, this low-lying region that lies hardly 0.5 to 2 metres above the mean sea level, has been inundated. The incessant rain seldom left time for the flood waters to recede, leaving the area flooded. Though the people of Upper Kuttanad are familiar with floods, such a prolonged water-logging, mainly owing to the unscientific land conversions, turns out to be the bane of this paddy bowl, says Mr. Eapen. Pappachan, a 72-year old farmer, told The Hindu that he had never witnessed such a sorry state of affairs in Upper Kuttanad region with the people made to bear the fury of nature.
“Now we have road access to different parts of Upper Kuttanad, minimising our dependence on the water transport system. But, the unscientific construction spree has blocked various flood escape routes in the region, ultimately leading to the present crisis,” lamented Abraham Mathew, a septuagenarian retired school teacher.
The major settlement colonies of Kazhuppil, Mundappally, Alamthuruthy and Ambedkar have been remaining flooded for the past few weeks. Many flood-hit families have shifted to makeshift tents pitched on the roads cutting across the paddy fields. As many as 55 families have occupied a bridge as well as its approach road at Kombankarychira. The Revenue Minister, Adoor Prakash, during his visit to the area, had even directed the Collector to treat it as a flood relief camp and provide the affected families with free ration and other benefits.
Another group of 35 families of the Mundappally Colony have been camping inside a shed covered with plastic sheets on the Karukayilpady-Mundappally Colony Road since the past three weeks.
Many waste collection tanks in the region have been flooded and the human excreta flows freely in this more or less stagnant flood waters.
A majority of wells in the area have been inundated, making the well water unfit for consumption. Children playing in these filthy waters, womenfolk and children crossing the flooded paddy land in rafts made of bamboo and banana trunks, and people wading through flooded roads have now become a common sight in Upper Kuttanad.
Mr. Eapen says that migration of people, especially those belonging to the affluent sections, to the nearby towns of Thiruvalla and Changanacherry is another important social change taking place in the region.
Many families, with relatives working in the Middle East countries, own flats at various apartment complexes in Thiruvalla town. A builder in Thiruvalla told The Hindu that the crisis in Upper Kuttanad too has contributed to the recent spurt in the apartment business in the region. Many Non-Resident Keralites hailing from Niranom, Peringara, Kadapra and Nedumpram have purchased flats in Thiruvalla which they use as an alternative residence during the monsoon.
Mr. Eapen who is also the Upper Kuttanad Paddy Cultivators’ Association president said the people were least interested in paddy cultivation which has become unprofitable owing to various reasons.
Eapen Kurien, Pulikeezhu Block panchayat president, who hails from Peringara, said it was high time the crucial problems facing Upper Kuttanad were addressed.
Mr. Kurien and Mr. Eapen were of the view that a comprehensive masterplan for Upper Kuttanad should be prepared to restore all culverts, canals and other flood escape routes.