Waste dumping and pollution are chocking pokkali fields of Kochi and other districts, according to experts which studied the sustainability issues of the fields.
The committee appointed by the Kerala government observed that the backwaters of Ernakulam, Alappuzha and Thrissur and the pokkali fields located in the fringes of these water bodies have undergone major ecological transformations.
The intensity of pollution due to discharge of effluents from various major, medium and small industries located in and around Kochi, dumping of sewage from various municipalities and corporations and agriculture run off to the adjoining backwaters of the fields are causing severe crop loss. The reasons for crop failures of shrimp and fishes in pokkali fields were also attributed to pollution.
During the past two decades, the backwaters have shrunken in side and depth. Their water holding capacity too was reduced due to the siltation in open water bodies. The deposit of silt has affected the feeder canals and pokkali fields resulting in the reduced tidal action and volume of seawater reaching the backwaters, observed the committee headed by B. Madhusoodana Kurup, Vice-Chancellor of the Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean studies, Panangad.
As the sustainability of fish/ shrimp farming in pokkali fields has been hit due to siltation, the committee suggested the dredging of adjoining water bodies and feeder canals of the fields.
Waste from construction sites and dredged materials which were dumped in the backwaters should be removed for restoring free tidal movement.
The panel suggested immediate dredging of Veeren puzha (Mulavukad-Chathanad), Cheenkani thodu and Vebhayithodu.
The committee suggested the setting up of a pokkali park at Kadamakudi panchayat. A pokkali mill can be installed there for preparing value-added products from pokkali rice. The park should facilitate the processing and marketing of pokkali rice in domestic and export markets, provide biotechnological infrastructure for the conservation and preservation of germplasm resources and serve as a pokkali seed bank. The committee had K.K.C. Nair, Ashok Kumaran Unnithan, K.K Vijayan, K.S. Shylaraj, G. Rajendran, K.G. Padmakumar, U.K. Gopalan, P. Sahadevan, S. Ajayan, K.A. Saira Banu and M.S. Saju as its members.
It was also proposed that the park can be developed as a tourism heritage village and serve as the centre for creating awareness for conserving the unique pokkali ecosystem. The government should come up with a policy for rice integration in pokkali fields. License for shrimp farming shall be issued only to those fields which are raising one crop of paddy.
The other recommendations of the pane include development of a mechanism for the timely supply of quality fish seeds, setting up of an independent body for the testing the quality of fish seeds and introduction of new shrimp varieties for checking the outbreak diseases.
The State should own up the responsibility to conserve pokkali crop by providing support to farmers.