Pollution threatens Kerala backwaters

Posted: 17 August 2005

The beautiful waterways of the South Indian state of Kerala, which attract holidaymakers from all over the world, are under threat from falling water levels and pollution. Its lakes and canals lying between the Arabian sea and the mountains of the Western Ghats, support a wealth of marine and bird life. But, say Indian researchers, Kerala now lies on on the verge of 'environmantal catastrophe'.

Writing in The Observer (London) Dan McDougall reports that the foremost lake in the region, Lake Vembanad, has been reduced to a third of its size over the past decade, with fish catches down by more than half since the 1970's. Only a third of of Kerala's canals remain since surveys in the early 1900s.

Lake Vembanad. Photo: Kerala-hub.com
Lake Vembanad. Photo: Kerala-hub.com
Lake Vembanad© www.kerala-hub.com
He reports a stern warning by Dr Bijoy Nandan, head of the state's Central Inland Fisheries Institute that 'The steady reduction of water levels due to construction and the increase in chemical discharges into the marine environment from factories over the past decade has left Kerala in the verge of an environmental castrophe. Local crops are suffering. Fish stocks are depleted, rare birds are at risk and the number of freshwater turtles are falling.
Sand dredging

'The massive reclamation of backwaters for agriculture, urbanisation, housing, aquaculture and port construction has dramatically affected the areas flora and fauna' he adds.

One cause of the damage comes from unregulated sand dredging. Another is the traditional occupation of of coir fibre, woven from coconut husks into rope, matting and air conditioning filters. Environmentalists say the husks, which are soaked for months in the shallow backwaters, release toxic compounds. But thousands of jobs depend upon the industry.

Madhuoodab Kurup, professor of fisheries at Cochin University of Science and Technology, commented: 'For centuries these canals have sustaiued Kerala, but today these people have no pure air to breathe. The disaster graph is peaking.'

Source: The Observer, 14 August, 2005

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Read the full story at The Observer website: Pollution threat to the backwater beauty of Kerala