The district throws up several issues that require the urgent attention of the Oommen Chandy government in the State, which assumed office on Wednesday.
One challenge before the government is getting the work started on the proposed railway coach factory at Kanjikode. During the election campaign, the United Democratic Front (UDF) leaders had promised to initiate steps to make the factory a reality, if returned to power.
The previous government had handed over about 175 hectares of land free to Railways for setting up the factory. The project found a mention in the last three Railway budgets, but no fund had been allocated.
The district, which produces nearly half the paddy produced in the State, is facing an agricultural crisis. The increasing cost of production, the low income from paddy cultivation, and a shortage of labour leave the paddy farmers distressed.
Large areas of paddy fields are being reclaimed for growing cash crops and real-estate development. These fields are natural reservoirs of rainwater, helping to lock it in as groundwater. Reclamation means the water table falls.
In Chittur, the farmers face a shortage of water for irrigating the fields. The area gets only 7.25 tmcft (thousand million cubic feet) of water a year from the inter-State Parambikulam Aliyar Project. Tamil Nadu is yet to consider Kerala's demand for a higher share of water. Cultivation has thus been affected on 18,200 hectares of land under the Chitturpuzha irrigation scheme.
The Bharathapuzha, the lifeline of the district, has suffered at the hands of sand-miners and encroachers, with drinking-water supply affected in hundreds of grama panchayat areas. The longest river of the State vanishes in the summer. Experts and activists here say implementing the Bharathapuzha Action Plan should be a priority of the new government.
The tribal people continue to face problems despite the hundreds of crores of rupees spent in the name of their welfare. Some multinational companies had encroached up on land in the tribal heartland of Attappady for erecting windmill units. The UDF had raised the issue while in the Opposition, blaming the then government for the trespass. The new government is hence expected to take urgent steps to clear the encroachments.
The previous government has decided to wind up the Attappady Hill Area Development Society on completion of the implementation of a Rs.219-crore environment and tribal empowerment project. The project did not solve many problems of the tribal people. So the new government has to decide whether to revive it or not.
The industrial units, especially the textile companies at Kanjikode, have been facing a crisis. Some of the units have even been closed down. These are a challenge before the new government.