Geography and Hydrography of the Vembanad Lake
The Vembanad Lake is a part of Vembanad-Kol Wetland System which extends from Alappuzha in the south to Azheekkode in the north. Situated at sea level, the Vembanad Wetland System covers an area of about 2033.02 km sq. The Vembanad Lake is approximately 14 kilometres wide at its widest point and just over 96.5 km in length. Its boundaries are framed by Alappuzha, Kottayam and Ernakulam districts. The port of Kochi (Cochin) is located at the lake's outlet to the Arabian Sea. The town of Alappuzha (also known as Allepey), sometimes called the ‘Venice of the East’ for its large network of canals that meander through the town - is located between the lake and the Arabian Sea. On the east coast of the lake, Kumarakom Tourist Village is located. The northern fringes of this village are graced by the Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary. This village offers houseboat cruises and holiday packages.
A narrow barrier island helps this lake in maintaining a distinct identity from the Arabian Sea. This lake is linked by canals to other coastal lakes in the north and south. Kottayam is a vast network of canals which empty into this long lake. 10 rivers flow into Vembanad Lake, out of which 6 rivers belong to central Kerala. They are- Achankovil, Manimala, Meenachil, Muvattupuzha, Pamba and Periyar. This lake is known to provide shelter to more than 20,000 waterfowls - the third largest such population in India. It is also a suitable habitat for shrimps.
Thanneermukkom Salt Water Barrier in the Vembanad Lake
The Thanneermukkom salt water barrier is located at one of the narrower parts of the Vembanad Lake. It functions as the largest mud regulator in India. It was constructed as a part of the Kuttanad Development Scheme and is near about 1,252 metres (4,108 ft) long. The reason for the construction of this barrier was prevention of tidal action and intrusion of salt water into the Kuttanad lowlands. It divides the lake into two parts - one with perennial brackish water and the other with fresh water from rivers draining into the lake. This salt water barrier has proved to be advantageous in certain ways. It has helped farmers in Kuttanad by freeing the area of salinity and allowing them an additional crop in the dry season. But this barrier also has its disadvantages. A major drawback of this barrier is the loss of opportunity for fishes and prawns to migrate upstream. There has also been an increase in weed growth upstream which consequently prohibits the natural flushing of pollutants.
Vembanad Lake’s Support to Tourism
The Nehru Trophy Boat Race held every year on the Punnamda Lake, near Alappuzha, gave impetus to the development of tourism in Vembanad Lake. This boat race which started in 1952 became tourist centric, probably in the early 1980. These boat races thus made tourism products by the tourism department. They attract both foreign and domestic tourists, thereby helping them secure huge attendance. Apart from the boat races, the calmness and beauty of this lake has contributed to its development as a tourist spot.
Inland Transport via Vembanad Lake
Almost all villages in the area surrounding the Vembanad Wetland System can be accessed through water transport. This became possible as the Vembanad Wetland System has formed an intricate network of estuaries, lagoons and canals which spans over 196 km in the north-south and about 29 km in the east-west directions. The rivers - Muvattupuzha, Meenachil, Pamba and Achencovil also act as modes of inland transportation. They are all navigable up to distances of about 30 kilometres upstream. The Kottappuram-Kollam segment of the west coast canal system has a major chunk passing through the Vembanad Lake and spans a total of about 209 kilometres. It has been declared as a National Waterway.
Demography on the Shores of the Vembanad Lake
As estimated, millions of people live on the banks of the Vembanad Lake. People living on the shores of Vembanad lake earn their livelihood by indulging themselves in various activities, which include agriculture, fishing, tourism, inland navigation, coir retting and lime shell collection.
Ecological Crisis faced by the Vembanad Lake
With the aim to form polders and enlarge the extent of the Wellington Island of Cochin port, the Vembanad Lake underwent land reclamation, over the course of the past century. As a result, the water spread area of the Vembanad Lake started reducing considerably from 1971 to 1990, which became a matter of concern for the state. The Thanneermukkom bund is responsible for the rampant propagation of water hyacinth in fresh water. Also, the lake’s bed is heavily exploited for uncontrolled mining of shells. Its adjoining areas including a medical college at Alappuzha is responsible for the release of sewage effluents and organic materials in huge amounts, without any prohibition. As a result, these toxins are decreasing the dissolved oxygen level in the water of this lake.
Nearest railway station to the Vembanad Lake is Kottayam which is at a distance of about 13 km. Nearest airport is the Cochin International Airport, which is at a distance of about 63 km.
Water Resources in India
Resources in India
Lakes of India
Hydrography of Vembanad Lake
Tourism of Vembanad Lake