THRISSUR: Now, a study on kole lands in Thrissur and Malappuram conducted by the Kerala Agriculture University (KAU) has found that the wetlands have borne the brunt of the rapid urbanisation in Kerala.
According to it, when wetlands are converted into built-up area and mixed crop land, the environmental fallout is huge.
When wetlands are converted, it leads to a decrease in groundwater recharge resulting in the wells of nearby households turning dry as soon as summer sets in. Consequently, the economic burden on these households increases since the water scarcity forces them to buy water from outside, besides deepening the wells, said the study which focused on the households located within a 1,500m radius of the kole ecosystem.
In fact, the well depth in homesteads in the areas adjacent to the converted lands is 27 per cent more compared to that in the other areas, which implies poor groundwater recharge. Due to the declining water table, the well-heeled large farmers in these areas opt for larger sized wells. And they invest more money in the maintenance of these wells every year. The average investment for well maintenance in this region is 58 per cent higher than that in the other places.
Also, it was found that the water level in the wells in areas where the land remained unutilised--fallow lands and tracts maintained as fallow lands for a while-- had declined by an average of 20 per cent in the post-Monsoon period, 41 per cent in January-February and 73 per cent during the peak summer.
“The households on converted lands have to rely on public taps, tanker lorries arranged by local self-governments and private water suppliers, said Dr P Indira Devi, director, Centre of Excellence in Environmental Economics at Kerala Agricultural University, who conducted the research on Wetlands and Water Availability-- 'The Inter-linkages and Socio-economic Dimensions'.
The expenditure incurred by the small farmer households ranged from Rs 36.70-Rs 73.42 on a daily average. The expenditure was the highest for the households in areas which were permanently converted as built-up area, which was 41 per cent higher compared to the other areas.
Moreover, it emerged that the average monthly expenditure of small farmer households in areas which were kept as fallow lands, areas kept as fallow land for a while, where cultivation restarted and was continuing as well as the areas without any change in land use was Rs 2,180.
In converted land, where the households had to rely on public taps, the average monthly expenditure came to Rs 3,000, which was approximately six per cent of the household income. The average monthly expenditure by large farmers in converted land was Rs 3,240 and it accounted for 5.13 per cent of the average monthly household income.
Besides, the study found that the total welfare loss due to kole land conversion was put at an estimated Rs 128 crore annually. The state government's Department of Environment and Climate Change had funded the study.