Vembanad lake closer to getting a green shield

G. K. Nair Kochi | Updated on June 22, 2011


State to form an authority to implement action plan

The Vembanad wetland system in Kerala is now closer to getting a protective programme.

The State has initiated steps to form an authority to implement an action plan for cleaning the Vembanad lake, sources said. The Centre will give 100 per cent financial assistance for the programme.

Financial assistance

The Minister of State for Environment and Forests, Mr Jairam Ramesh, in a communication dated December 21, 2009, told Mr Anto Antony, a Member of Parliament from Kerala, that the Centre would provide full financial assistance for the conservation activities. The State had to submit an action plan to get the funds. But nothing of that sort happened, Mr N.K. Sukumaran Nair, General Secretary of NGO Pampa Parirakshana Samithi (PPS), told Business Line.

The Vembanad lake was included in the National Lake Conservation Plan (NLCP) in June 2003. But the project never began as successive State Governments did not show much interest, probably because it had to bear 30 per cent of the cost of the programme. The wetland system was included in the National Wetland Conservation Programme (NWCP) in 2009 because of its fragile ecosystem, deterioration of water quality, damage to aquatic organisms and shrinkage of the Vembanad lake.

The shrinkage of the Vembanad Lake to 37 per cent (13,224 ha) of its original area of 36,329 ha as a result of land reclamation had been the most important environmental consequence of human interventions, experts said. The water carrying capacity of the system has been reduced to an abysmal 0.6 cubic km from 2.4 cubic km, they said.

Five rivers originating in the Western Ghats drain into this lake. A good portion of this wetland has been converted into paddy fields, which remain waterlogged for six months a year. Some areas are left fallow throughout the year.

As the wetland and floodplain are interconnected with the rivers, aquifers and sea, the management of the wetland goes hand in hand with river basin, groundwater and coastal zone management, said Mr Nair of the PPS. The guidelines also state that the people are an important part of the ecology and their livelihood is an important contributor to the economy of the region, he added.

But Father Thomas Peelianickal, Executive Director, Kuttanad Vikasana Samithy, who has played an important role in formulating the Kuttanad package, told Business Line that successful implementation of the Vembanad Lake Conservation would depend on the implementation of the Pampa Action Plan, which was sanctioned about a decade ago, and the Kuttanad Package already approved by the Centre some five years ago.

Therefore, the PPS has urged the State Government to formulate and implement urgently an “integrated water resource development plan comprising the Vembanad lake and four rivers viz., Achancovil, Pampa, Manimala and Meenachil”. These rivers are draining in to the lake, it said.

Published on June 22, 2011

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