Vembanad Lake Continues to Shrink : Daily Current Affairs

Date: 13/09/2022

Relevance: GS-3: Conservation, Environmental Pollution, and Degradation, Environmental Impact Assessment.

Key Phrases: Vembanad lake, Kuttanad, fisherfolk community, wetland, Ramsar convention, Thanneermukkom Bund, Environmental degradation, Pollution, recurring floods, Encroachment, shrinking, ecological resilience.

Why in News?

  • The Vembanad lake, which is a source of livelihood for farmers of Kuttanad and the fisherfolk community, continues to undergo ecological degradation due to pollution and unauthorized constructions on its banks, with experts calling for "committed efforts" to save its wetland ecosystem.

What is a wetland?

  • Wetlands are areas of marsh, fen, peatland, or water, whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, with water that is static or flowing, fresh, brackish, or salt, including areas of marine water the depth of which at low tide does not exceed six meters.

Ramsar Site:

  • A Ramsar site is a wetland site designed to be of international importance under the Ramsar Convention which is also known as the 'Convention of Wetlands'.

Ramsar convention:

  • The Ramsar Convention is the intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.
  • The Convention was adopted in the Iranian city of Ramsar in 1971 and came into force in 1975.

Ramsar Sites in India:

  • India currently has 75 Ramsar sites covering an area of 13,26,677 ha in the country.
  • Tamil Nadu has a maximum number of Ramsar sites (14), followed by UP (10).

Vembanad Lake:

  • Vembanad is the longest lake in India, as well as the largest lake in the state of Kerala.

  • With an area of 2033 square kilometers and a maximum length of 96.5 km, it is the second largest Ramsar site in India only after the Sunderbans in West Bengal.
  • It is bound by the districts of Alappuzha, Kottayam, and Ernakulam.


  • Kuttanad, also known as The Rice Bowl of Kerala, has the lowest altitude in India and is also one of the few places in the world where cultivation takes place below sea level.
  • Kuttanad lies on the southern portion of Vembanad.

Thanneermukkom Bund:

  • It was constructed to prevent tidal action and intrusion of salt water into the Kuttanad low-lands across Vembanad Lake between Thannermukkom on the west and Vechur on the east.
  • It is the largest mud regulator in India. This barrier essentially divides the lake into two parts - one with brackish water perennially and the other half with fresh water fed by the rivers draining into the lake.

Issues with Vembanad Lake:

  • Environmental degradation:
    • According to ecological experts, the lake is facing serious environmental degradation due to recurring floods, increased pollution, reduction in water spread area, and increased weed growth.
  • Loose state efforts:
    • A lot of projects were announced about the conservation of the lake, but they are yet to be implemented.
    • Experts believe the steps that the state government claims to be taking remain on paper and nothing is ever implemented at the ground level.
  • Poor maintenance:
    • The bunds on the lake were crumbling at certain places, making fishing difficult and on top of that, the lake requires regular dredging and desilting also.
  • Pollution and recurring floods:
    • Pollution and recurring floods in the lake also paint a bleak picture regarding the livelihood of the fisherfolk in the area and farmers as Kuttanad, also known as the Rice Bowl of Kerala, lies on the southern portion of the water body.
    • The residences and resorts along the lake shore discharge their waste into the river and many of the houseboats do not have eco-friendly or bio-toilets. There is also no sewage treatment plant there.
  • Unscientific construction and operation of Bund and Spillway:
    • The lake has to be managed in a manner that both the agriculture and fisheries sector can complement each other.
    • This requires a scientific and efficient operation of the Thanneermukkom bund and Thottapalli Spillway.
    • Some reports have revealed that the Thanneermukkom bund has partly failed to serve its purpose mainly due to the unscientific manner in which it is operated.
    • The spillway was not constructed as per original plans and now it would be difficult to change its dimensions.
    • All this is resulting in a situation where either agriculture or fishing would be possible, but not both together.
  • Tourism:
    • Tourism, which while a major boost to the state's economy poses a threat to the ecology and water quality of the lake and its wetland system when waste disposal and treatment along the lake are not closely monitored.
  • Encroachment:
    • The huge constructions by private landowners or builders and the government along the lake shore are the ones that pose a major problem and instead of focusing on them, going after common people living there was not a solution.
    • The lake was being encroached upon by the residents living along its shore as well as those running resorts to extend their properties.
    • As a result, Vembanad is shrinking and is also facing ecological problems.


  • Vembanad being a wetland ecosystem contributes to Kerala’s ecological resilience; a future free from encroachments and violations is vital for the lake and the cities that surround it.
  • The participation of local communities, including fisherfolk and farmers, in the revival of the lake is essential.

Source: The Hindu

Mains Question:

Q. Why are wetlands in India at risk of ecological degradation despite being designated as Ramsar wetlands? Also, suggest measures required to be taken to mitigate the threat of ecological decay faced by India’s wetlands.