ALAPPUZHA: In an attempt to revive the clam (a marine bivalve mollusc with shells of equal size) deposit along Vembanad lake, a relaying project will be launched near Thanneermukkom Barrage. The project proposed by Ashoka Trust for Ecology and Environment (ATREE), a Bengaluru-based research group, has been approved by the Fisheries department. ATREE coordinator T.D. Jojo says the clam will be collected from the northern side of Thanneermukkom barrage and deposited in protected areas.
“The area will be closely monitored by a team of scientists along with ATREE. The project was introduced after the clam deposit was seen shrinking at times,” he said. As many as 5,000 local people still earn their livelihood collecting clams in the Vembanad wetland area, spread over 36,500 hectares and fed by six large rivers and seawater. However, clam deposit has been affected for some years in Vembanad Lake due to climate change. “The relaying project will be implemented by closely monitoring it for six months by which time clam will be allowed to multiply without interruption. The fall in salinity is the major factor in decreasing clam deposit," says Jojo apart from El Niño factor.
“Waters of Vembanad suffer due to seawater rushing in. The optimum measure of salinity for clam breeding is from 10 ppt. However, salinity in Vembanad is below 10ppt. There is a big possibility of clam deposit vanishing from the river. The first leg of breeding of clams takes place between December and February and second leg between April and May. The new project will develop a system to monitor every stage of breading,” he said.
According to the latest fish survey report, there are as many as 45 varieties of fish at present while it was more than 150 species about a decade ago. “About 10 years ago, I could collect enough clams in just two-three hours. Now I work the whole day to procure it,” says Ashokan, a clam collector from Muhamma. Meanwhile, activists say the quality of clam in Vembanad Lake is very poor when compared to clams a decade ago. They say chemicals from reclaimed farmlands, illegally discharged effluents from tourism houseboats and lakeside industries such as coconut husk retting have contributed to significant pollution in the lake.
“The illegal clam collection with banned motors is also rampant in Thanneermukkom area. They affect traditional clam collectors who are very vulnerable. Police had recently arrested 10 clam collectors for questioning illegal collectors. “This illegal activity is patronised by powerful people,” says K.M. Poovu, secretary, Vembanad Lake Protection committee. ATREE scientists have been working for a decade to conserve the ecology of the lake. They have 13 lake protection groups, trained to check water quality in the lake.