The widening of the Alappuzha-Changanassery (AC) Canal, a project under the Kuttanad Package, is yet to make any progress mainly due to the delay in the eviction of traders and families living on either side of the canal.
A study on the AC Canal conducted by the M S Swaminathan Research Foundation, has stressed upon the renovation and deepening of the canal, which is the considered as the backbone of Kuttanad. This is on account of the various problems frequently occurring due to the present condition of the canal.
The AC Canal is greatly depended for discharging water from the paddy polders
to the Pallathuruthy river. But, the work on the canal can move forward only if the people are evicted from the area.
Moreover, narrow bridges is also a cause of worry. The paddy fields get water-logged soon after a heavy downpour in the upper Kuttanad area. The AC road is also prone to get submerged in the water.
The Swaminathan Foundation reports says: “Undertake construction of AC canal to complete the unfinished sections of this canal with removal of all blocks, encroachments, land fillings, between Onnamkara to Pallathuruthy. Ensure the width of the canal is at least 50 m and depth to the desired level. Strengthen the bund south of the canal to provide protection to the poor families living on this bund.”
The study revealed that about 171 shops and about 18 houses have been constructed on encroached land. As per the study, `80 crore will be needed for the widening of the canal. The Irrigation Department had formulated a detailed project report (DPR) on the project as directed by the Central Water Commission (CWC).
The work on the canal has been divided into three phases. The first phase covers Manakkal Chira to Onnamkara, the second phase Onnamkara to Nedumudi and the third phase is from Nedumudi to Pallathuruthy. Four bridges come under the first phase in which the Kidangara bridge is the narrowest. The study recommends the reconstruction of the Kidangara bridge. The Irrigation Department had proposed `20.79 crore for the first phase. It was approved by the Central government in 2009, but the constructed has not started yet. Of the allotted amount, only `12 lakh has been spent for survey and demarcation. About 33 bridges will be widened in this phase.
The main hurdle in beginning the widening work is the eviction of the encroachers. A native of Kidangara, Ramesh, said: “No political party seems to willing to carry out the eviction process as it could affect their vote bank. Unless the rulers take an initiative, the widening work will never begin.
Ramesh said, “Another reason for the delay is the contactors’ demand for hike in the construction rate. The contractors, who have taken up the work, have stopped the construction and are asking for a revised rate, which would only benefit them and the political parties,” Ramesh said.