Our work in kuttanad


Kuttanad, a biogeographic region covering 3 districts of Kerala, is globally known for its geographical peculiarities. Renowned for its vast paddy fields, and intricate network of canals and backwaters, Kuttanad is one of the few regions of the world where farming is carried out 1-3 metres below sea level.Agriculture is the mainstay of the population but over time, changing developmental aspirations and tourism potential have also put the pressure of population and unsustainable, unsuitable building typologies on the Kuttanad region.

kerala floods, 2018

When the main floods struck in August 2018, CANALPY was able to take initiative in this situation. Relying upon the social capital already built up, the CANALPY team was able to quickly mobilise a volunteer team to be a part of the rescue and relief activities. In addition to this, a student team was also mobilised to carry out a flood impact assessment. Using the mobile applications already used during Winter and Summer Schools (OSM tracker and ODK collect) the CANALPY team carried out activities such as georeferencing of remote camps and bringing it into public domain to coordinate logistics of relief goods to help in volunteer rescue and rehabilitation activities. In this, the team coordinated with the Kerala Shastra Sahitya Parishad (KSSP) and national health mission. In the flood camps, the team carried out epidemic prevention training including sanitation practices for the displaced, supplying of incinerators, construction of temporary aerobic bins for food waste management, and temporary toilets. 


operation rehabilitation drive and flood mapping in kuttanad

For the post flood impact assessment, Questionnaires were prepared to carry out surveys on socio economic parameters, structural damage analysis of households and public institutions, the impact of flood on water, sanitation services and public health in various panchayats of Kuttanad. The data collected was then shared with a team of experts for analysis and to recommend suitable paths ahead. Despite lack of expertise and minimal training, we find there was a reasonable degree of consistency between volunteer observations and expert findings of structural damages. Open source tools such as Open Data Kit (ODK), QGIS (Quantum GIS), OSM Tracker (Open Street Maps) were used for this assessment.

One month after the devastating floods, on 19 September 2018, Canalpy volunteers were engaged in the collection of flood mapping data of Kuttanad which would later be compiled to prepare a flood map.


Three research assistants of KILA  had developed a plan to decongest the canals through a participatory process with the support of the panchayath. The Canals were decongested and the entire process was documented. From the collected data and the feedback received through  stakeholder interviews it was proven that the process has the capability to scaling-up. The social and cost benefits of this program show it’s potential for the entire Kuttanad region.

decongestion plan for canals of nedumudy

For scaling up the canal decongestion process in the entire Nedumudy grama panchayath, CANALPY team tracked the major and minor canals – 35.4 km in total. After the tracking was done, the team turned to the civil survey. Through the civil survey data like  measurements of canal, reduced  levels of canal bottom and canal bank, sludge quantities, encroachments, canal side wall details, flow direction etc was collected. Among 35.4km canal length, 15km of length has been surveyed till now. This work has been completed as an internship program by participating civil engineering students from colleges in Alappuzha district.

disaster management plan for nedumudy panchayat

As part of the “Nammal Nammukkai” mass campaign by the Government of Kerala, all the Gram Panchayats and Municipalities of the state participated in the preparation of disaster management plan with the help of the local community. As part of this, the first disaster management plan in Kerala was prepared in Nedumudi Panchayat  by the CANALPY team.

thumbooram padashekharam – an alternate bund construction strategy

The Thumburam padashekharam is 135 acres of paddy fields surrounded by canals on all sides. The CANALPY team was able to propose a project which looked at mitigating the effect of flooding by decongesting the canals and constructing outer bunds using local manpower, thus ensuring that livelihoods are generated within the community itself.