History of Kolleru Lake
The history of Langula Narasimha Deva (Langulya Gajapathi Raju), a Ganga Vanshi Odisha king (Oddiya/Odia Raju), can be traced from the two copper plates of the early Pallava dynasty discovered in this lake. The Gajapatis were a medieval Hindu Suryavansi dynasty of Kalinga- Utkal Odisha who ruled large parts of Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh. During the glorious reign of Kapilendra deva, the first Suryavamsi Gajapati emperor, the boundary of the Kalinga Empire (ancient Odisha) stretched from river Ganges in the north to Kaveri in the south and from Amarkantak in the west to Bay of Bengal (Kalinga Sagara) in the east.
History highlights that the lake protected the Odia forces from their enemy, lead by the Bahamany general, Muhammadan. The Gajapathi fort was located at Kolleti Kota, on one of the eastern islands of the lake, while the enemy forces were encamped at Chiguru Kota, located on the shores. In order to launch an attack on the Gajapathi fort, the enemy attempted to excavate a channel, the modern-day Upputeru. This would cause the water of the lake to empty into the sea thereby reducing its level in the lake. It is believed that the royal Odia army general sacrificed his own daughter, Perantala Kanama, to propitiate Gods and register a win against Muhammadan. The channel in the lake was thus called Perantala Kanama.
Sri Peddinti Ammavari Temple is one of the oldest and famous temples found in Kolleru. A very famous quotation is associated with this lake, which is generally used to describe a situation when everything is lost. The quotation is -Na kompa kolleru aiyindi. This association established when many of the people of Telaprolu village head family's had invested and bought lands near Kolleru Lake, but due to expansion of the lake, they lost all their properties.
Geography and Hydrography of Kolleru Lake
This lake spreads over an area of about 308 sq. km and expands up to 954 sq km at the highest flood level. Kolleru Lake under Ramsar Convention covers an area of about 90,100 hectares (222,600 acres) and the wildlife sanctuary in this lake covers an area of about 166,000 acres (67,200 ha). The Budameru, Tammileru, Yerra Kalva and Ramileru rivers drain their waters in this lake.
This lake is diverse in terms of flora and fauna. There are two categories of birds in this lake. They are the resident birds and the migratory birds. The former reside in the lake, while the latter visit this lake seasonally. Some of the resident birds include grey pelicans, Asian open-billed storks, painted storks, glossy ibises and white ibises. Migratory birds from northern Asia and Eastern Europe are known to visit this lake between the months of October and March. During this season, the lake is visited by an estimated 2 million birds. Some of the migratory birds include red-crested pochards, blackwinged stilts, avocets, common red shanks and flamingos.
A number of fertile islets called Lankas are found in the Kolleru Lake. Many of these small-sized lankas are known to submerge during floods. This lake also has an unusual depression possibly formed as a result of earthquakes. This depression forms the bed of this lake.
Economic Values of Kolleru Lake
Andhra Pradesh has realized the potential of this lake for tourism and has turned it into a tourism product. Thus, the conservation authorities of the Kolleru Lake are engaged in developing this lake as a tourist spot. The state government has asked the Wildlife Management Division (WMD), Eluru, under the aegis of Chief Conservator of Forests, S. Sreedhar, to prepare a tourism circuit plan. The tourism project is the only joint project of West Godavari and Krishna districts, which was promised by the state government recently. The identified circuit area would cover Gudivakalanka tourism resort in West Godavari to Kolletikota villages and Atapaka Birds Sanctuary in Krishna district. It also includes boating, visit to a pilgrimage spot, Peddintlamma temple in Kolletikota villages and bus journey to Atapaka, a border of these two districts.
The lake under the Ramsar Site is utilized by the local communities to continue their occupation of fishing (catching culture fish and caught fish).
Ecological Crisis Faced by Kolleru Lake
The Kolleru Lake today faces a major problem in terms of illegal encroachments. Thousands of fish tanks were dug up in the lake, without any prohibition. This has consequently affected the availability of drinking water for the local people. Other problems affecting this lake are loss of ecological diversity and intrusion of sea water into the land masses and its fallout in terms of adverse influence on the rainfall pattern in this region. Reduction in the amount of rainfall affects the production of thousands acres of crop in the upper reaches of the sanctuary. Bunds of the fish tanks, in this case, act as a barrier obstructing the flow of water into the sea.
It has also been found that approximately 42% of the lake is covered by aquaculture, while agriculture had covered another 8.5%. The former was done by establishing about 1050 fish ponds within the lake and about 38 dried-up fish ponds, which together covered an area of about 103 sq. km. The latter was done to grow rice paddies. Further reductions in the lake were brought about by water diversions. Also, weed infestation is responsible for deteriorating the quality of this lake. The graveness of this problem was captured by satellite images taken on February 9, 2001 by the Indian remote sensing satellite. These images have shown no clear water in this lake.
Restoration of Kolleru Lake
In November 2002, this lake was declared a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention, which would help in the restoration of the lake.
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