ALAPPUZHA, (India), Mar 06 (IPS) - Farming, tourism, poor fishing practices along with misdirected policies are muddying the famous backwaters of Kerala, one of India's best known holiday destinations. Nowhere is this misuse more visible than in and around the 95-km-long Vembanad Lake.
Vembanad lake in Kerala is the lifeline for over a million people. Credit: Samson Alapuzha/IPS.
Bearing the brunt are small fishing communities which are caught between dwindling fish catch, worsening water quality and the usurpation of banks - traditionally used as fish-landing points - by tourism operators.3
"Until about eight to 10 years ago, I would collect this amount in just two-three hours," says fisherman Ashokan, pointing to a mound of black clams in his canoe-like boat. "Now I work the whole day to procure it," he tells IPS.
Kerala's backwaters, a tourist hotspot, are made up of a 1,500-km waterway network of canals, lagoons, lakes and rivers that run parallel to the Arabian Sea and are fed by both saline and fresh water, contributing to a unique ecosystem. Many areas in these wetlands are below sea level, allowing sea water to flow inwards.
Major towns and cities dot the backwaters, such as the historic port city of Alleppey, now called Alappuzha, where the Maharaja of Travancore oversaw the building of canal waterways in the 18th century.
At the heart of this entire ecosystem is the Vembanad wetland area, spread over 36,500 hectares and fed by six large rivers and seawater. It is a lifeline for over 1.6 million people living on the lake's banks.
More than 150 species of fish are found in Vembanad Lake. The Horadandia atukorali fish is found only around Pathrimanal island in the lake. The ecological significance of Vembanad's rich biodiversity has made it the country's largest Ramsar site, meant to accord protection for conservation.
But being a Ramsar site has not brought any protection for Vembanad Lake so far.
© Inter Press Service (2014) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service
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