‘Venice of the East’, have always been the arteries of a healthy economy in central Kerala by propping up trade for centuries. A coastal town and coir capital of the world, Alappuzha received much of its goods for trade from the hilly eastern districts of Kerala through large vessels called ‘kettuvallam’. Later, construction of roads reduced the dependence on these boats for transporting goods, a twist in the socio-economic history of Kuttanadu that led to the transformation of the ‘kettuvallam’ into today’s houseboat. The arrival of the first floating mall in 2009 also helped the houseboats that dot the backwaters in getting groceries for their guests. The floating malls have thus also become a tourist attraction in the backwaters that once reportedly beat the Taj Mahal as India’s most preferred destination in an online poll.
Even the big oil companies have realised how easy it is to move their products by the waterways within the state instead of using the clogged highways. All the major oil companies, like the Indian Oil Corporation, Hindustan Petroleum Corporation and Indo-Burma Petroleum Corporation, have bought land near the national waterway from Kochi to Kollam. Also, for the first time, the Kerala tourism department, a few months ago, sent helicopter-mounted cameras into the sky to film the backwaters spread across 10 of the state’s 14 districts to help a campaign to present the natural entity as a “single destination like the Great Wall of China”. “Income generation through employment opportunities from the tourism sector helps in the economy of the backwaters region,” says VC Asokan, associate professor in the economics department of the 109-year-old Sanatana Dharma College in Alappuzha.
The strides of the backwaters region in tourism and other industries are expected to help in the economic development of the region. Already a big-league foreign remittance destination because of the lakhs of Malayali immigrants in the Gulf countries (non-resident Indians sent home $71 billion in 2013, making India the largest recipient of foreign remittances, says a World Bank report last October), Kerala is also drawing young hospitality talent from other states to its new luxury resorts like