A research conducted by the scientists of Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies (KUFOS) in the Vembanad lake and coastal belts of Kochi, reveals the presence of heavy loads of macro-plastic litter in the bottom sediments.

In the 76.5 sq/km area of Alappuzha-Thannermukkom sector of Vembanad, the study reports the presence of 4,276 tonnes of plastic garbage in the bottom sediments, which works out to 55.9 tonnes per sq/km area, according to A Ramachandran, Vice-Chancellor of KUFOS.

“Another alarming finding of the study is the sharp depth shrinkage of the lake, from 8 to 9 meters depth in 1930s to the present 1.6 to 4.5 meters depth,” he added. “The decreasing trend in the lakes depth profile is largely due to from siltation and unless urgent interventions are made to reverse the trend the southern part of the lake is likely to disappear in one or two decades,” he said.

The study was conducted as part of the university’s year-long campaign for a ‘plastic-free’ Kochi waters under the ‘ Swachata hi Seva’ programme of the Central government.

KUFOS has already initiated detailed investigations through the Centre for Aquatic Resource Management and Conservation, which works under the University, on the long-term changes of Vembanad lake which is a Ramsar Site . (A Ramsar site is a wetland ecosystem designated to be of international importance under the Ramsar Convention. The convention on wetlands, known as the Ramsar Convention, is an inter-governmental environmental treaty established in 1971 by UNESCO, which came into force in 1975).

Ramachandran said that the University has plans to undertake long-term clean-up campaigns of Kochi waters with the help of the public. Hoardings depicting the danger associated with casual disposal of plastic items will be kept at each 500 m distance of the Marine Drive walk-way, urging the public to dispose plastic items only in the bins kept at several points along the pathway. These bins have been placed by the University in collaboration with the corporate sector.