Students of Govt Vocational Higher Secondary School, Kadamakkudy have so far cleared waste from a 2-km polluted stretch of paddy fields along the Kadamakkudy Road in Ernakulam.

How students of this Kerala school are reviving paddy fields polluted by tourists
news Environment Monday, August 05, 2019 - 19:03

A 40-minute ride will take you away from the hustle and bustle of Kochi city to Kadamakkudy Islands cluster, located amidst the backwaters of Vembanad Lake. Valiya Kadamakkudy, one of the islands in this cluster, is mostly covered by paddy fields. The natural beauty of this place and good roads have made it one of the favourite leisure spots for people in and around Kochi. But with the increasing inflow of sightseers on a daily basis, the paddy fields along the roadsides are now turning into waste dumping spots, threatening the fragile ecosystem of the place.


Kadamakkudy (Credits: FB / ErnakulamKochiKerala)

The students of Government Vocational Higher Secondary School in Kadamakkudy are on an endeavour to address this growing issue and restore the paddy fields to their pristine glory. 

The paddy fields are also home to an endemic paddy variety – the Pokkali rice, which has got a Geographical Indication (GI)-tag.

About 75 higher secondary students of this school, have so far cleared about two-kilometre polluted stretch of paddy fields along the Kadamakkudy Road. Interestingly, the garbage collected from here is recycled by the students into ornamental items.

The school officials with the collaboration of National Service Scheme unit and the summer internship program of Suchitwa Mission, have given training to the students on how the garbage can be recycled to make useful products.

Using the waste bottles and vessels picked up from these fields, the students are making vertical gardens and ornamental pieces. Beer bottles, which are the mostly commonly collected waste item from here, are being converted by the students into beautiful indoor decorative pieces.

Apart from helping to clean the fields, sale of these decorative pieces is also providing a source of revenue for the students to extend their community programmes.

Gijo Ittoop, a teacher and NSS program officer of the school, tells TNM about the activities of the students and the reason behind this initiative. “As part of our green initiatives, we used to make the students cultivate Pokkali rice, which is one of the special varieties of paddy in Kerala. We used to take the fields around the schools for lease and had successfully completed cultivation in the last few years. But this year, we couldn’t do it as children were finding it difficult to enter into the fields for cultivation since the area was full of waste bottles. There were even broken beer bottles embedded in the soil. Unless this is cleared, no cultivation is possible here,” says Gijo.

She also says that the fields have started to get polluted as more people have started to come and spend time in the area. “These paddy fields are very significant because these are Pokkali fields, which have unique characteristics and are endemic in nature,” says Gijo.

Pokkali fields

Another important reason for the students to take up the initiative was also because of the significance of the Pokkali fields.

Pokkali is one of the major natural organic farming varieties of rice prevalent in Kerala. With the GI-tag, it is a saltwater tolerant paddy variety endemic to just about 33 panchayats, two municipalities and one corporation, spread across Ernakulam, Alappuzha and Thrissur districts in the state.

The fields are submerged in the saline water of the backwaters for most of the year. With the onset of monsoon, the salinity of the soil gradually decreases and the water become fresh and fit for cultivation of paddy. Pokkali rice is usually cultivated in the months of June to October.  

Neither fertilisers nor chemicals are used to cultivate the crop. The tidal flow of the backwaters and the natural deposit of aquatic weeds makes the Pokkali fields nutrient rich.

“It is our responsibility not to spoil a place which has got these many specialities, which is also a livelihood for a lot of people. It is in fact our duty to preserve this natural resource and beauty of the place,” says Gijo.

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