Kuttanadu is a region in the district of Alappuzha, in the state of Kerala, India, well known for its picturesque vast paddy fields and its geographical peculiarities. It’s the region with the lowest altitude in India, and one of the few places in the world where farming is carried out below sea level. It’s also one of the historically important places in the ancient history of South India.
Backwater Paddy Cultivation
The major occupation in Kuttanad is farming. Rice is the important agricultural product, giving Kuttanad the moniker of "The Rice Bowl of Kerala". Three crops are grown every year now instead of the traditional two per year. Large farming areas near vembanad Lake were actually reclaimed from the lake. The history of the paddy cultivation in Kuttanad can be traced back to centuries. The evolution of paddy cultivation in Kuttanad was correlated to the technological advancement and changes in the regulatory frame work existed during the 19th and 20th centuries. In the earlier times, the reclamation was done mainly from the shallow part of the Vembanad Lake or from the periphery of river Pamba. These reclamations constituted small areas of paddy fields called “Padsekharams”.The bailing out of water from those fields were done manually using water wheels named “Chakram”. Gradually the manual method used for bailing out of water gave way to steam engines.
The prominent families in kuttanadu who were involved in the backwater paddy cultivation are Pallithanam, Vallickadu, Vachaparampil, Pazhayaparmpil, Punnadamvakkal, Chalayil, Kandakudy, Illikalam, Akkara, Ettuparayil, Mangalapallil, Paruthickal, Meledom, Murukkummootil, Puthenpurayil, Pattasseril etc.
As the farming in the area increased farmers felt themselves constrained by the two cycles a year for rice cultivation. The reason for which is the limited availability of potable water in Kuttanadu. During the monsoon seasons, the water from the mountains flow through the rivers to the sea, bringing potable water to Kuttanadu. But during summer, due to the low level of the region, seawater enters Kuttanadu and makes the salt content of the water high making it unpotable.