An ambitious programme of mapping the land resources of every village panchayat in Kerala has run into trouble. The project was conceived in 1988 by the Kerala Sastra Sahitya Parishad and the Centre for Earth Sciences (ces), but lack of proper funding has since tied in up in knots. While the initial estimate for the project was Rs 2.92 crore, the present estimate stands at Rs 10 crore. Besides, although the programme was to be completed in 2 years, only 105 of the 1,400 villages in the state have been covered till date. ces has now decided to concentrate on Kollam district, which is to serve as a model for the rest of Kerala.
Critics, however, say that a major reason for the project's failure is that ces expanded the ambit of its surveys. Narayana Kurup, head of the state planning board, says that if the Centre had stuck to geophysical mapping, rather than concentrating on socioeconomic issues, work would have progressed satisfactorily. "What we want is resource maps, but the way CES is moving, we are not likely to get them for another 30 years," adds K V Nambiar, secretary to the planning board.
ces director K M Nair, however, refutes these statements. "We had neither previous experience nor a model to rely on. As we proceeded to the stupendous task of bringing together various departments and laypersons to hammer out a proper development plan for every village, we began to realise the enormity of the task," he says.
It is, nevertheless, evident that the state authorities are slowly moving away from ces' work. To speed up the process of making panchayat-level maps, the state government is establishing a land use department and will utilise remote sensing facilities and also involve the Bureau of Economics and Statistics.
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