Trawl ban ends, but Kerala fishermen worried

The Indian Meteorological Department has warned fishermen from foraying into the sea for the next four days..reports Asian Lite News

Fishermen and fishing boat owners of Kerala are concerned after the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) has warned fishermen from foraying into the sea for the next four days commencing from July 31.

Incidentally, the 52-day trawling ban which started on June 9 is to end on the midnight of Sunday, and around 3,600 boats including long liners were planning to venture into the seas.

“The IMD failed to issue properly and timely alert during the Ockhi cyclone leading to the loss of lives of several fishermen. After this, the IMD has been issuing frequent weather warnings leading to a blanket ban on fishing activities,” All Kerala Fishing Boat Operators Association General Secretary, Joseph Xavier Kalappurackal told IANS.

He said that in 2020 fishermen were allowed to fish only on 53 days and in 2021 only 52 fishing days were made available.

Kalappurackal added that fishermen would go to the sea from Sunday night if the Navy, Coast Guard, and the state fisheries department wouldn’t intervene.

He also said that during the initial days after the trawling ban, fishermen are hopeful of a good catch and that rains would have brought nutrients to the sea attracting a large volume of fish.

“Another major problem encountered by the fishermen in the state is the presence of fibre boats of Tamil Nadu on the Kerala coast. Many of these boats were present in the water during the trawler ban period,” Kalappurackal asserted.

Antony Joseph, a fisherman from Vypeen told IANS that he and his team of seven fishermen have made all preparations and were expecting a good catch from Sunday late night onwards but the warning from the IMD has dampened their spirits. “We don’t know how we will make up the 52-day ban period if we are not allowed to venture into the sea at least from Sunday night onwards.”

The IMD has issued a yellow alert for Alappuzha, Kottayam, Ernakulam, Idukki, Thrissur, Palakkad and Malappuram districts.

According to the IMD, these districts will receive heavy to isolated rain in the four-day period.

Meanwhile, Kottayam and Idukki districts are under an orange alert for heavy rain on Monday.

The IMD said Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Pathanamthitta, Alappuzha, Kottayam, Ernakulam, Idukki and Thrissur districts will receive heavy to very heavy rain on Tuesday.

Although the state witnessed heavy rain this month, there is still a net 26 per cent deficit since the southwest monsoon was weak in June.

Despite the rain deficit, the dams have more than 60 per cent storage and are expected to be full when the southwest monsoon withdraws by September 30.

5 dead in heavy rains

At least five people were killed due to the heavy rain in Kerala.

While two deaths were reported on Sunday, a car while overtaking a bus on Monday, lost control and fell into a overflowing canal in Pathanamthitta district and moved in the waters for over 15 minutes before the fire department officials recovered the vehicle.

While two people were already dead by the time they reached a hospital, a third peron died later.

On Sunday, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said that heavy rain would lash Kerala for four days and issued a yellow alert for Alappuzha, Kottayam, Ernakulam, Idukki, Thrissur, Palakkad and Malappuram districts.

Following the IMD alert,the district authorities have been given the responsibility to declare holidays for educational institutions in vulnerable areas.

ALSO READ: Kerala’s paddy cultivation dwindles

India News Kerala Sports

Kerala Blasters launch senior women’s team

The club has roped in coach and former player Shereef Khan AV as the first Head Coach of the Women’s team on a long-term contract…reports Asian Lite News

Kerala Blasters FC have announced the launch of their senior women’s team. The squad will participate in the upcoming Kerala Women’s League organised by Kerala Football Association (KFA) and compete to win the title and qualify for the Indian Women’s League (IWL).

In the next 2-3 years, the club also aims to represent the country at the AFC level.

Kerala Blasters’ vision is to work towards the contribution of local players to the national squad. Apart from the Indian International players, the club has more local talents, which marks an important milestone in the growth and development of women’s football in the State. The squad will be revealed in a separate announcement shortly.

The Kerala Blasters’ entry into women’s football has always been a clear ambition for the Club. Earlier Rizwan was designated as the Director of Kerala Blaster’s Academy and Women’s Team. The club has roped in coach and former player Shereef Khan AV as the first Head Coach of the Women’s team on a long-term contract.

“For Kerala Blasters FC, this project has been in the works for quite a while. As of today, Kerala has no representation in the Indian National team. This scenario should be changed. We have the vision to work towards that and develop our players into that caliber. KBFC contributing to that will be huge and as a club, our influence towards that will be very crucial,” said Rizwan, Director Kerala Blasters FC Academy and Women’s team.

Kerala Blasters FC already has girls participating in its Young Blasters-Sporthood program. Turning that into an age category group and giving them a chance to represent KBFC in District and State level tournaments is also part of the club’s long-term plan.

Based on their performance the young talents may be promoted to the senior team as well. Meanwhile, ahead of the Kerala Women’s League commencing in August, the Kerala Blasters women’s team will train at the Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium, Kaloor. The League is scheduled at various venues in the State.

ALSO READ-Neeraj Chopra clinches India’s first-ever silver medal at World Athletics

India News Kerala

Kerala’s paddy cultivation dwindles

While the landscape change keeps their fields flooded during the monsoon, the surrounding canals carry too little water post-monsoon, making paddy cultivation impossible throughout the year…writes Nisha Matamp

Farmers in Kerala are growing increasingly dependent on irrigation to grow paddy — despite the state receiving an average annual rainfall of 3,610.2 mm in 2021, far higher than the state average of 2,924.7 mm.

“Earlier, when labour wasn’t too expensive, paddy could be harvested twice a year. But by 2008, everyone around us began to level their fields to grow tubers and other perennial trees. We couldn’t because the new law (Kerala Conservation of Paddy and Wetland Act 2008) prevented us from converting our land. By then, the landscape around us had already changed, and we were unable to grow paddy anymore,” says Pothanmaanayil Joseph, a farmer from Pothy, Kottayam district who now grows grass with his cousins on three acres.

While the landscape change keeps their fields flooded during the monsoon, the surrounding canals carry too little water post-monsoon, making paddy cultivation impossible throughout the year.

“Years later, if government irrigation projects reach our village, we may be able to resume paddy cultivation,” Joseph adds.

Government irrigation projects haven’t reached Elamdesam panchayat in Idukki either. But unlike Joseph, VS Kareem says his fellow paddy farmers irrigate their farm with water from their nearby pond.

“If the November rains falter, we have to look for irrigation sources. In 2019, we incurred losses because we had to hire diesel-run motors to irrigate our fields, which are more expensive than electric motors,” says Kareem, who only cultivates paddy once a year.

Irrigation a necessity due to erratic climate

The sixth assessment report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has predicted an overall rise in demand for irrigation water by 2080, causing a further decline in rain-fed agriculture.

According to 2019-20 Kerala agriculture statistics, 75.69 per cent of the paddy grown in the state was irrigated. This loss in rain-fed paddy cultivation is evident all through the three paddy seasons in Kerala — autumn (April-May to September-October), winter (September-October to December-January) and summer (December-January to March-April).

In 2005-06, the rain-fed paddy cultivated in autumn and winter were 79.8 per cent and 22.5 per cent, respectively, which dropped to 68.7 per cent and 4 per cent. Only summer rain-fed paddy recorded a slight rise from 0.08 per cent in 2005-06 to 0.16 per cent in 2019-20.

Some 120km to the west of Idukki, farmers had requested for irrigation to grow Pokkali rice, a highly rain-dependent paddy crop. The rising salinity in the coasts post-monsoon limits paddy cultivation to just the rainy season, when the downpour lowers the salinity of the land.

“Although we lost around 15 per cent of our rice to post-harvest moisture, we are still happy with this year’s (2021) produce,” says KA Thomas, who suffered losses in 2019 and 2020 due to dry spells. Fearing similar losses in the future, Thomas and his fellow Pokkali farmers of Kadamakudy in Ernakulam district had requested for irrigation.

“Due to erratic rains and frequent dry spells, rain-dependent paddy cultivation is nearly impossible in Kerala. Paddy requires 100 per cent soil moisture. It is difficult to revive paddy if the soil loses even 10 per cent to 20 per cent of its moisture,” says Babu Mathew, a retired irrigation officer.

Can irrigation prevent food insecurity?

Despite Kerala spending Rs 9,645.7 million on irrigation till 1990-91, exclusively to boost its paddy cultivation and attain self-sufficiency in food supply, paddy produce declined steadily. Ironically, despite the annual expenditure on irrigation, several traditionally irrigated paddy farms that relied on natural canals and ponds have either been lying fallow or converted to grow other crops. In 2020-21, current fallow constituted 54,255.40 hectares and fallow other than current fallow accounted for 42,751.70 hectares.

“As much as 70 per cent of the fallow land you see today is forced fallow,” says Mathew.

Irrigation projects were meant to raise paddy production to 2.1 million to 2.7 million tonnes annually, but in 2019-20, Kerala could only produce 500,000 tonnes of rice, while importing the rest from Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. The IPCC report further estimates a 10 per cent to 30 per cent drop in rice production in India if the global temperature rises between 1 degree Celsius to 4 degree Celsius.

A thesis submitted by Basil Abraham, a research scholar from Kerala Agriculture University, Thrissur, predicts a further rise in irrigation needs through all cropping seasons in the future. The research placed special emphasis on Thrissur, which has the state’s second largest area under summer paddy.

The study also predicts a severe decline in rainfall in the coming years, which would raise the requirement for irrigation water by 200 billion litres to grow winter paddy and about 750 billion litres for summer paddy in Thrissur district.

The future of rice

While investing in irrigation may not be able to protect Kerala from food insecurity in the future, farmers and scientists have found different ways to grow paddy using much less water.

“In China, paddy is cultivated using drip irrigation. With proper technology, aerobic rice can be grown by ensuring that the ground is wet,” says Mathew, the retired irrigation officer.

“We tested the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) on several farms in Palakkad district; those farmers still grow paddy using this method. But other farmers (ones who practice traditional paddy cultivation methods) are unwilling to try SRI due to lack of schemes,” says Dr Karthikeyan, a scientific staffer at the Regional Agricultural Research Station, Pattambi.

“An acre of paddy can yield up to 2,800kg using the SRI method, while the traditional anaerobic cultivation means can only produce between 1,600kg and 1,700kg,” says P.K. Thankappan, a decade-old SRI convert in Palakkad. “But unlike the traditional methods, SRI doesn’t require the fields to remain flooded throughout the cultivation period, which results in rampant weed growth. It’s also difficult to find labourers for this method.”

Moreover, a closer look at the agriculture statistics report comparing 2008-09 to 2019-20 reveals that it’s the high-yielding varieties that demand more irrigation than the local varieties.

“If the local variety is cultivated scientifically, not only can it produce yield on par with high-yielding varieties, it also reduces the water required to grow paddy,” says Natarajan K., a retired agriculture officer who has been successfully cultivating a variety of local paddy in Palakkad on his 2 acres.

“I’ve never lost paddy to rains, except in the 2018 deluge,” says P. Bhuvaneshwari, a 62-year-old 2022 Karshakasree winner from Palakkad.

While her neighbours only grow paddy once a year, she still grows autumn and winter paddy. Around 12 years ago, she began with less than an acre of paddy farm. Today, her field spreads over 10 acres. She believes her chemical-free farming and rich soil biodiversity may have been preventing such losses.

ALSO READ: Kerala in Time magazine list of 50 extraordinary destinations

Kerala Lite Blogs Travel & Tourism

Kerala in Time magazine list of 50 extraordinary destinations

The magazine said that just like the houseboat tourism promoted by the state, caravan tourism is also expected to follow suit with a similar promise of sustainable tourism…reports Asian Lite News

The Kerala tourism department is elated over TIME magazine shortlisting the state as one among the 50 extraordinary destinations in the world to explore in 2022.

Tourism minister Mohammed Riyaz told media persons that the recognition is a result of the hard work of the tourism department and the new policies and programmes in the sector.

Kerala is ranked ninth in the “World’s Greatest Places 2022” list as an eco-tourism spot. The US magazine wrote that Kerala has spectacular beaches and lush backwaters, temples, and palaces and is known as ‘God’s Own Country’ with good reason.

The new project of the tourism department ‘Karavan Meadows’ also finds a mention in the TIME magazine report which is considered by the department as a recognition of its caravan tourism project.

The magazine said that just like the houseboat tourism promoted by the state, caravan tourism is also expected to follow suit with a similar promise of sustainable tourism.

Ras al Khaimah (UAE), Park City (Utah, US), Galapagos Islands, Dolni Moravo of Czech Republic, Seoul, Great Barrier Reef in Australia, Doha, and Detroit are ranked above Kerala in the TIME magazine report.

Last month, Kerala had launched responsible tourism clubs throughout the state. The state government wants to involve the local communities and ensure responsible travel. Apart from boosting tourism, the clubs reportedly aspire to preserve the local art and culture and implement green protocols.

Aligning with the previously launched Destination Challenge, the new initiative will be helping the state government to increase sustainability and responsibility. In the next four years, the Destination Challenge aims to identify and develop 500 tourism spots.

The state tourism department has already rolled out the first set of responsible tourism clubs at colleges and universities. This was done in collaboration with the state’s Higher Education Department.

Kozhikode, one of the state’s most prominent ports, is one of those destinations which will witness a Comprehensive Responsible Tourism Development. In three years, the government also reportedly aims to develop Beypore as an international tourism hub. The state-level initiative was rolled out in the presence of Kerala’s Tourism Minister PA Mohamed Riyas.

READ MORE-Kerala tourism back on track

India News Kerala

Kerala village raises Rs 18 cr for treatment of 9-month-old

People of Chorode village in Kozhikode district conducted a massive convention at Athafy auditorium in Chorode on Monday for taking forward the collection initiative….reports Asian Lite News

A village in Kozhikode district of Kerala has come together to collect Rs 18 crore to treat a 9-month-old Siya Fathima who is suffering from Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA).

Medicine for this rare disease has to be imported from the United States and a single dose costs Rs 18 crore. Zolgensma is a gene therapy medicine and a single dose will cure the disease.

Siya, the daughter of Siyad and Fazeela of Chorode started showing difficulties in moving, three months after she was born. The toddler was taken to the Malabar Institute of Medical Sciences (MIMS) where doctors diagnosed her as suffering from Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA). Subsequent tests at Bengaluru and Thiruvananthapuram confirmed that the infant was suffering from Type 1 SMA.

Siyad, the father of Siya, told IANS that the child is having difficulties holding her head up and is having trouble in eating and breastfeeding also.

People of Chorode village in Kozhikode district conducted a massive convention at Athafy auditorium in Chorode on Monday for taking forward the collection initiative.

A committee for fund collection is formed with Chorode gram panchayat president P.P. Chandrashekharan as Chairman and K.P. Abdul Azeez as convener.

ALSO READ: Panchayats in Kerala to decide fate of wild boars

Kerala Lite Blogs

Panchayats in Kerala to decide fate of wild boars

While Raju’s family celebrated the licensed killing of the boar, there’s no respite for Thomas, as about 6,000 of the 9,000 households in his jurisdiction are incurring huge losses in agriculture due to wild boar attacks…reports Asian Lite News

On June 1, around 10.30 p.m., EP Raju, a licensed gunner empanelled with the Kerala Forest and Wildlife Department, shot down a wild boar that had entered his father EP Yohannan’s farm in Kodancherry village in Kerala’s Kozhikode district, this was the first recorded incident of culling after the department empowered local self-governments to cull wild boar to curb their growing menace.

“I’m thankful to Kodancherry panchayat president Alex Thomas for granting me the requisite permission. I request all farmers to take quick action, otherwise, no crop will survive in any village located on the fringes of the forest,” said 94-year-old Yohannan.

Farmers who suspect that wild boar are attacking their farm now need to seek permission from the panchayat president, who can depute a licenced gunman to cull the animal. Earlier, the farmer had to procure this permission from the forest department, but the procedure was cumbersome and resulted in inordinate delay.

While Raju’s family celebrated the licensed killing of the boar, there’s no respite for Thomas, as about 6,000 of the 9,000 households in his jurisdiction are incurring huge losses in agriculture due to wild boar attacks.

“There are hundreds of boar here, and we have only five licenced gunmen to tackle them. I’m worried the farmers in my village will continue to incur more losses,” said Thomas. Under the new rules, he is the honorary Chief Wildlife Warden with the same powers as State Chief Wild Warden.

Panchayat heads like Thomas will see a need for more licenced gunmen, and already district collector offices, which have the authority to approve gun licences after obtaining clearances from the police as well as the revenue and forest departments, are seeing an increase in applications.

On May 25, after issuing an order to empower local bodies with culling rights, Kerala Minister of Forests AK Saseendran said, “This is a new experiment; there are bound to be some shortcomings. The government is trying to tackle the menace without violating the Wildlife Protection Act.”

A senior forest officer, on condition of anonymity, said they didn’t know the exact number of wild boar in Kerala, as no detailed survey had been conducted before the culling orders were issued. The last wild boar census was conducted in Kerala in 2011; it stood at 48,034.

Though the panchayat should bear the cost of culling, in most cases farmers might have to bear the initial costs, which is tough on those whose farms have already been affected by boar attacks, the forest officer added.

“To avoid poaching, farmers are even forbidden from selling the meat after the kill. We need to wait for at least a year before receiving feedback and rework the guidelines accordingly.”

Earlier, farmers dug trenches, erected walls and even resorted to using poison, electric traps and illegal shooting to control the menace. This often caused untoward accidents. For instance, on May 21, in Vithura gram panchayat in Thiruvananthapuram district, 57-year-old Selvaraj was electrocuted by an electric fence.

“Farmers are not resorting to illegal means anymore. I have already received more than 150 applications for culling rights,” said VS Baburaj, president of Vithura gram panchayat.

The panchayats intend to expedite the otherwise exhausting process of granting permission and connecting farmers with licenced gunmen. The applications are approved at the president’s discretion.

These applications give each farmer the standing right to ask for the culling of boar that enter their farms after they are verified as genuine by the panchayat. After this, the panchayat president can grant permission even over a phone call, deputing an available gunman for the task. Depending on the particular farmer’s financial standing, the panchayat may or may not accept the responsibility of paying the gunmen, who are compensated to the tune of Rs 1000 per culling.

Wild boar – a vermin or not?

In the past five years, wild boar attacks caused 21 deaths and 515 injuries among people. So far, the Kerala government has received 10,700 applications from farmers seeking compensation for the damages.

The compensation process, however, is laggard. According to a Kerala forest department official, around Rs 5 crore has been disbursed as compensation for crop loss against wild boar attacks in 2020-2021; Rs 3.53 crore in 2019-20; and Rs 4.6 crore in 2018-19.

According to the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972, the culling of a wild boar is a criminal offence, involving three years imprisonment so farmers are in a dilemma about the legality of culling despite panchayat sanctions.

With the rise in man-animal conflicts, farmers’ organisations have been pressuring the Centre to declare wild boar as vermin.

“There are strict guidelines for declaring an animal ‘vermin’. They cannot be declared vermin unless they’re dangerous across the country, which wild boar are not,” said Bhupendra Yadav, Union Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change, on the sideline of the Anil Agarwal Annual Environmental Dialogue conducted by the Centre for Science and Environment in Nimli, Rajasthan. This was before the May 25 announcement in Kerala. He added that he was aware of the situation in Kerala, but declaring boar vermin would make them vulnerable to poaching across India.

According to P Basheer, a forest officer from Edathara sector in Kozhikode, who had overseen the first culling operation in Kodancherry village: “On the pretext of culling to save life and crop, hunting shouldn’t be permitted. We are duty-bound to ensure that after the culling, the carcass is buried properly.”

Culling not a panacea

A section of environmentalists and animal rights activists, including Maneka Gandhi, has, however, protested this move by the Kerala government.

“Wild boar is the only species that consumes bracken, an undergrowth that prevents seedlings from growing by blocking sunlight in forest,” Gandhi explained. “Besides, its habit of constantly scratching the forest floor clears the ground for fresh growth. The demand to cull wild boar was made by hunters and others who stood to gain monetarily through poaching, not by agriculturalists.”

The Kerala forest minister unequivocally denied these allegations, pointing out that the decision was aimed at finding a permanent solution for farmers and people residing on forest fringes, and that the government wouldn’t allow hunting.

However, farmers claimed the problem was not restricted to wild boar alone. P Vijayalakshmi, a farm woman in Kulappully village in Palakkad district, said, “I have suffered financial losses of more than Rs 1 lakh in a year due to animal attacks. Not only wild boar but also monkeys and peacock have been regularly raiding my crops. I can cull wild boar, but what about the others? Does the law permit culling them, too?”

People living on the fringes of forests have been facing attacks from wild elephant, tiger, leopard, monkey, bison and peacock on the regular. According to the Kerala Forest and Wildlife Department, 1,048 people lost their lives to animal attacks in the past decade.

Shrinking forests and increasing urbanisation have forced the animals, including wild boar, out of the woods. They enter farmlands in search of plantains and tapioca. State-controlled culling may not offer any permanent solution unless measures are taken to preserve the forests and fight climate change.

“Water and food scarcity due to the degradation of forests and climate change are the main causes for man-animal conflict. Infact, we cannot find a permanent solution without addressing this root cause. But I support culling for the time being because no other option exists for farmers to save their lives and farms,” said Dr VS Vijayan, former chairman of the Kerala State Biodiversity Board.

“Culling may bring temporary relief, but it cannot weed out the problem entirely,” said Vijayalakshmi.

ALSO READ-In this panchayat in Wayanad, tree banking scheme aims carbon neutrality


Wayanad turns to bamboo to avoid flood woes

Shaken by the impact of the 2019 floods, the district administration implemented a programme to plant bamboo…writes Divya GS

“Not an inch of land that was covered with bamboo caved into the river,” said Kelu, pointing at the lush green bamboo stretch on the banks of the Chalipuzha river, a tributary of the Kabini flowing through Kottathara panchayat in Keralas Wayanad district.

Along this same stretch, other patches of land, including some farmland, were washed away by the river during the floods.

“Greedy farmers here had encroached upon the riverbank and cut down the bamboo shoots. They paid the price for their deeds when the floodwaters washed away a good portion of their farmland,” Kelu added, watering the bamboo saplings he had planted recently on the riverbank.

A district of numerous streams and natural water channels, Wayanad is known for its bamboo species which plays a powerful role in protecting the banks of rivers. In fact, the environmental damage to riverbanks and their erosion were among the major causes of the devastating 2018 and 2019 floods.

In Wayanad, Kottathara is one of the most vulnerable gram panchayats. It’s a floodplain that gets inundated in various magnitudes every year.

“Bamboo can mitigate the impact of floods, landslides and drought. It reduces the velocity of gushing water, prevents the erosion of surface soil in sloped terrain, acts as a protective shield on riverbanks, reduces chances of drought and improves biodiversity,” said retired district soil conservation officer PU Das.

“The plant also helps in carbon sequestration. Farmers here had successfully adapted a bamboo cultivation model from Kenya that stabilises land in flood and landslide-prone areas. Studies by the National Bamboo Mission also suggest the same.”

Kelu, a member of the Kuruchiya tribe, has been planting bamboo saplings on riverbanks since he was a child. Now 56-year-old, he’s single-handedly responsible for planting a few thousand bamboo shoots on riverbanks and waysides, all of this with no particular motive in mind, but a habit inculcated from the elders of his community. But today, Kelu is an exception, as not many others from the indigenous Kuruchiya tribe appear to be interested in continuing with this tradition.

Bamboo was once an integral part of the culture of several tribal communities of Wayanad. From a source of food, to raw material to build houses and to be fashioned into fishing or hunting tools, the species held an integral place in their lives because of which they planted and protected it. But the tribals having given up their traditional lifestyle; they no longer find a reason to act in the interest of the bamboo.

However, taking lessons from the floods of 2018 and 2019, the Indo-Global Social Service Society (IGSSS) took on the task of planting bamboo saplings in the district. They planted around 30,000 bamboo saplings on the banks of the Kabini and its various tributaries flowing through the Thirunelli and Kottathara panchayats. Titled ‘Community Lead Disaster Resilience Project’, it was part of the relief measures carried out in response to the 2018 floods, which went on until 2020-2021.

“It’s common knowledge among people here that bamboo can prevent soil erosion because of their large, fibrous root system. We chose it for its lifespan, apart from other annual vegetation like colocasia,” explained Asha Kiran, Project officer, Community Lead Disaster Resilient Project, IGSSS for Wayanad district.

“During our survey and impact studies, we also found that civilians planted bamboo of their own accord along riverbanks in our project area.”

Overall, the process turned out to be easier than expected.

Kiran shared that the riverside communities here were “in exact need of this kind of support, as they are the ones who are worst-affected by flooding and understand well the causes and remedies required”.

Studies under the project identified vulnerable and eroded banks extending to around 6.5 km at three different sites in Kottathara. Next, a three-party strategy was devised: the IGSSS would purchase and supply the bamboo saplings; the local governing body would plant them as per the site plan developed under MGNREGA; and the community would be responsible for maintenance. On their maturing, the gram panchayat would utilise these bamboo plants for their livelihood requirements, through self-help groups or other community organisations in the future.

The initial plan of action was to plant the saplings through a volunteer programme, but pandemic restrictions prompted them to involve MGNREGA and the gram panchayat, Kiran said, adding that this strategy worked successfully in Thirunelly for a similar project.

“Once MGNREGA got involved, it became a flagship project,” she said. “In November-December 2020, the bamboo project was included in the work schedule that the block panchayat approved. The work took two months, with 55 people toiling every day. It cost Rs 1,00,312 in Kottathara, including the purchase and delivery of the saplings.”

Shaken by the impact of the 2019 floods, the district administration, too, implemented a programme to plant bamboo.

“We had some challenges while initiating the programme, like a dearth of public land and the reluctance of farmers, the predominant community in Wayanad, to plant bamboo on their land, as its potential to generate revenue was low,” said Das, the former district soil conservation officer.

However, one farmer agreed to plant wild reed, a variety of bamboo, on 3.5 acres of barren land he owned. Altogether, 25,000 saplings were planted free of cost on this land under the government initiative. Two years down the line, the land is now green and boosting the biodiversity of the area.

In fact, the MGNREGA workers involved in the IGSSS project were farmers from the region and hence the beneficiaries themselves. Kiran recalled when they were delivering saplings near a riverbank, some natives “took a few from them to fill tiny bamboo belt gaps near the riverbank”.

Moreover, given the marketing possibilities for bamboo (wild reed) shoots in the incense-making industry, bamboo cultivation is gradually gaining momentum among farmers in Wayanad. Although wild reeds are not indigenous to the region, their marketing potential is making them popular.

“Wild reed may not be endemic to Wayanad, but it grows well in the district’s red earth and presents great marketing possibilities,” Das said.

Furthermore, Uravu Foundation, an NGO in Wayanad that’s the face of the Kerala government’s bamboo plantation scheme, supplied IGSSS with 2,950 saplings of three bamboo varieties suitable for the district: Bambusa balcooa, Dendrocalamus strictus, and Ochlandra travancorica. These free saplings were in addition to the technical advice they provided in the early stages of the programme.

“All three varieties can withstand being underwater for days. As Ochlandra needs more water to thrive, the saplings of this particular variety were planted in areas closer to the river,” explained Anjitha, an IGSSS staffer.

As the initiative was carried out under MGNREGA, the community could cover the riverside belt of 9.7 km and thereby have a greater impact on protecting the soil of the region.

“After planting the saplings, we made a protective cover around each of them using areca nut palm leaves. About 90% of the saplings have survived so far,” said Chandrika, an MGNREGA worker in Ward 1 of Kottathara panchayat.

The bamboo saplings begin to serve their purpose after eight months and take three years to mature. While the full benefits from the drive are not visible yet, early signs indicate a lot of promise that these lands and the communities dependent on them will be protected from floods.

ALSO READ-In this panchayat in Wayanad, tree banking scheme aims carbon neutrality

Arab News Kerala

Aster DM Healthcare to launch advanced healthcare facility in Kerala

With the new hospital in Trivandrum expected to add 2000 jobs, Aster would be providing employment to over 10,000 professionals in the State…reports Asian Lite News

Aster DM Healthcare, one of the largest private healthcare service providers in GCC and India, announced the launch of its latest integrated advanced healthcare facility at Trivandrum in Kerala. The hospital will be a 550-bed unit and will enclose 5.76 lakh sq. ft built-up area excluding the provision for 1 lakh sq. ft for multi-level car parking space. The company’s investment will be in the tune of 500 crores+ for the entire project, with the first phase having a capacity of 350 beds is expected to be operational by FY26.

This super-specialty facility will house several centres for clinical excellence that will cater to the functions of Cardiac Sciences, Organ Transplant, Neurosciences, Orthopaedics, Oncology, Urology & Nephrology, Gastro Sciences, and Woman & Child wellness.  The hospital will offer OPD, IPD, ICU including high dependency units, NICU, PICU and transplant ICU, day-care support and 24 hours trauma & emergency response services. Robotics and new generation systems would be introduced gradually.

Commenting on the launch, Dr. Azad Moopen, Founder Chairman and Managing Director of Aster DM Healthcare, said, “Aster Capital at Thiruvananthapuram has been conceived as a comprehensive facility that will deliver primary to quaternary healthcare to the people of the region. It has been a long-cherished dream of Aster DM Healthcare to be in the capital city to make quality healthcare at an affordable cost accessible to the population. There were large number of patients who were visiting our Aster Medcity at Kochi — and we thought it is our duty to bring the services to their doorsteps. This will increase our footprint not only in Kerala but across India with over 4500 beds in the country. We hope that the Aster Capital Hospital will become a destination for the highest quality healthcare in the country attracting medical professionals and patients to the state from abroad providing facilities at par with global standards.” 

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With 15 hospitals, 11 clinics, 131 pharmacies and 114 labs and PECs, Aster DM Healthcare remains committed to its promise of making quality healthcare affordable and accessible to people in India. With a large presence across 5 States – Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, the Group has been introducing world class healthcare with state of art infrastructure, advanced clinical procedures and interventional methodologies to local patients in India. The Thiruvananthapuram project will illustrate the group’s commitment to the goal of remaining at the forefront of a health management system that aspires to be inclusive, uncompromisingly effective and powered by a culture of concern. The hospital will aim to maximize the benefit of providing cohesive units for diagnostic and pharmaceutical services. 

Kerala Lite Blogs

Kerala girl enters India Book of Records for Warli paintings

Najiya is the daughter of Navas and Najma of Kaniyauram in Thiruvananthapuram…reports Asian Lite News

Najiya Navas, a graduate from Thiruvananthapuram, has entered the India Book of Records by drawing pictures in the technique of Warli painting, an art form unique to the tribal community of North Sahyadri Range in Maharashtra.

A Warli painting made by her of 5 inches in length and breadth has fetched her the India Book of Records recognition. Her entry breaks the previous record of a 10-inch length and breadth Warli painting.

Najiya has not learned painting formally and picked up the tricks of the trade from the internet. She has drawn more than 100 pictures so far.

Najiya said that it was during the Covid-19 lockdown that she entered the world of Warli painting and has already sold several of her drawings online and earned money from it.

She said that she is planning to learn drawing and painting in a systematic manner from Mumbai in the coming days. Najiya has already sent her pictures to the Guinness World Records.

Najiya is the daughter of Navas and Najma of Kaniyauram in Thiruvananthapuram.

ALSO READ-Girls entry, ‘revolutionary decision by Kalamandalam’

Kerala Lite Blogs

Kerala’s kalaripayattu is a rage in Kashmir

Another reason for its growing popularity is the recognition given by the Central Government to the sport. They know if they win a medal, they will get a scholarship as well as a job…reports Asian Lite News

Kerala’s popular martial art form kalarippayattu has travelled all the way from the southernmost tip of India to the very top in the North to capture the hearts of Jammu and Kashmir.

The tiny state has steadfastly been training 1,000 young girls and boys in 13 districts and their very best have arrived for the Khelo India Youth Games here in Panchkula, aiming to grab at least a couple of medals.

They don’t have the advantage of traditional kalari centres, though, which need to be constructed according to specifications of size and direction.

So, in the absence of proper gurukulams, the enthusiastic kids practice kalari in parks, schools and open spaces.

“It is not very difficult to attract kids to our sport,” Tasreen Sharma, who is looking after the J&K Kalari team said.

“We simply tell them the truth, that kalari has given birth to all the martial arts that they watch in movies. Right from karate to kung-fu to taekwondo. And that is enough to motivate them,” Tasreen said.

“Our girls feel empowered when they play kalari. It’s also liberating for the young who have not got many opportunities in the past,” she said.

Another reason for its growing popularity is the recognition given by the Central Government to the sport. They know if they win a medal, they will get a scholarship as well as a job.

Kalaripayattu, of course, originated in the Land of Gods – Kerala – about 3,000 years ago. If myths are to be believed, it was created by Lord Parashurama, for 108 Kalaris, who were to destroy the demons who were causing havoc on earth.

The oldest martial art survived through the long march of history by remaining inextricable from the social and cultural fabric of Kerala. It is also the only martial art in the world that incorporates an entire system of medicine called kalari marma – to heal and cure the injured and wounded.

Different variants of the art evolved across Kerala from the 12th to the 17th Century. It played a pivotal role in the evolution of Kerala, with no religious, social or political event ever being complete without a kalari display.

All young boys were even sent for customary training to gain physical, mental and spiritual synergy. It is said the kings in Kerala didn’t keep armies; whenever required, the kalari centres provided the warriors.

During the Colonial rule, kalari was banned. Undeterred, the old masters took their art to the deep valleys and trained their young disciples in underground pits – away from the eyes of the British.

The suppression of this art made it more vigorous; post-Independence, kalari returned to the centre-stage of the cultural life of Kerala. In 1958, the Kerala Government recognised it as a sporting event.

In 2015, the Indian Kalaripayattu Federation was recognised by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports as a National Sports Federation. Since then, the Federation has been conducting National Championships.

ALSO READ-Girls entry, ‘revolutionary decision by Kalamandalam’