With authorities yet to start the works at the Thanneermukkom barrage and Thottappally spillway, the implementation of the ambitious Kuttanad package, launched in September 2010, has hit a roadblock.
The modernisation work of the barrage and improving efficiency of the spillway are supposed to get top priority under the package.
“These works should have been taken up first. Swaminathan Commission had recommended key measures like computerisation of the barrage operations,” said Fr. Thomas Peeliyanickal, executive director of the NGO, Kuttanad Vikasana Samithi.
The reports of IIT, Chennai and the Centre for Water Resources Development and Management (CWRDM) on the two projects had been submitted on December, 2011. They had reportedly recommended replacement of all the shutters of the barrage and the spillway. A Detailed Project Report (DPR) of Rs. 78.29 crore (Rs 65.79 crore for Thanneermukkom and Rs 12.5 crore for Thottamppally) has already been prepared.
However, sources said the Irrigation Department, which prepared the DPR, had recommended no work on the central part of the barrage. The central part of the barrage is an earthen embankment.
The Kuttanad package project director K. Biju had been replaced by former Malappuram district collector M.C.Mohandas recently. Like Mr.Biju, Mr.Mohandas is holding the additional charge of Kuttanad and Idukki packages. He is currently the Land Revenue Commissioner. Mr. Mohandas will join only on June 10 as the project director, it is learnt. There has been a demand for the appointment of a full-time director to focus on Kuttanad package, but no such action has come from the government so far.
The main projects now being undertaken under the package include Reverse Osmosis (RO) plants in Kuttanad. One plant was set up at Edathua market near here on May 30. The target is to set up 63 ROs in 13 grama panchayats.
The weed removal works entrusted to State Fisheries Resource Management Society (FIRMA) have also drawn flak from various quarters. The removal of water hyacinths and weeds from the AC canal was the work given to the society. “Though it is specified that the contractor who gets the work should have at least two ‘weed harvester’ the weeds are now removed using a JCB machine. Moreover, the weeds and water hyacinths are being dumped on the sides of the AC road, which will endanger the road itself,” Fr. Peeliyanickal alleged.
Sources said that a total of Rs. 10.834 crore had been allotted to FIRMA. FIRMA spent Rs 10.75 crore.
It had claimed that 209203.886 cubic metres of weed had been removed as on March 2013 for which a lotal of Rs 9.71 crore has been spent.
However, Fr. Peeliyanickal said the amount allotted for removing weeds was calculated based on bio mass of the weeds on the canal.
“But now rains have washed the weeds away. Hence, it is sensible to pay for the only weeds removed by them,” he said.
The Rs.1,840 crore-Kuttanad Package, said to be among the largest financial packages sanctioned to a single region, was launched by Kerala Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan in 2010.
The package to ensure overall development of the region and its people was designed by renowned agricultural scientist M.S. Swaminathan.