SAVING INDIA'S LARGEST LAKE
Outlook Traveller|July 2021
A fisherman-conservationist, who is part of a community setting up fish sanctuaries in Vembanad Lake says that the belief that a rising tide will lift all boats, will help save India’s largest lake
K M POOVU

I WAS BORN IN A TRADITIONAL FISHING community along the Vembanad Lake, a wetland system that connects 1.6 million lives across three districts of Kerala. My earliest childhood memories are those of sitting by the lakeside near my home and dropping the net in it to catch different varieties of fish. It was the time when the lake was home to over 150 species of fish.

Even as a child, I was aware of the challenges that the fishermen in my community faced to make ends meet. Over the years, as the fish population in the lake declined, the problems of the fishermen inflated multifold. There are many factors that contributed to the impoverishment of the Vembanad Lake ecosystem.

One of the major factors was the construction of Thanneermukkom salt water barrier in 1975 across the Vembanad Lake. It prevented the flow of saltwater from the tidal waves of the Arabian Sea into the lowlands of the Kuttanad region. This was done to help paddy cultivation that needs fresh water. This barrier divided the 36,000 hectares lake into two parts, the north and the south.

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