The coastal wetlands in Kerala are set to assume a frontline role in the battle against climate change. Over the last one year, 200 hectares of wetlands in four districts have been restored for integrated farming, in the first phase of a Centrally- sponsored project to build resilience to climate change and enhance the adaptive capacity of vulnerable communities and ecosystems.
The ₹25 project taken up by the Agency for Development of Aquaculture (ADAK) under the Department of Fisheries seeks to restore and manage a total of 600 hectares of coastal wetlands for carbon sequestration and production of paddy and fish. These include 300 hectares of Pokkali wetlands in Thrissur, Ernakulam, and Alappuzha districts and 300 hectares of Kaipad wetlands in Kannur. It is the only project in Kerala to have been approved for assistance from the National Adaptation Fund for Climate Change (NAFCC).
The rotation of rice farming and fish aquaculture is expected to provide more income for farmers and local communities, improve land use efficiency, and minimise land degradation.
The four-year project involves the construction of earthen bunds along the margin of rivers and backwaters and along the periphery of paddy polders to withstand sea level rise, floods, and tidal surges triggered by global warming and climate change. Sluice gates are provided to regulate the water level and facilitate fish farming while biofencing would protect the bunds from damage due to heavy rain and flooding.
“Of the ₹5.9 crore sanctioned for the first year, we have spent ₹5.42 crore on restoring 200 hectares in the four districts,” said R. Sandhya, Director, ADAK. “Since paddy farming, unlike aquaculture, is not remunerative, it took some effort to convince farmers about the need for crop rotation. Over time, they have realised the merits of the integrated farming system,” Ms. Sandhya said.
She said the Agriculture Department had chipped in with timely supply of paddy seeds for the farmers. “We are confident of getting the full tranche of assistance for the second year,” she said.
The NABARD-monitored project estimates an annual production of 1,500 tonnes of paddy and 2,250 tonnes of fish from the 600 hectares of coastal intertidal wetlands, generating a total revenue of ₹24.75 crore. It would also generate 1,08,000 man days of employment every year, of which 43,200 would be for women.