ALAPPUZHA: Fishers and researchers want a green protocol for Vembanad Lake after a study by Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI), Germany, found it as one of the most polluted water bodies in the world. The 2,033-sq km lake is one of the largest in India where over 1,500 houseboats lay anchored along the Alappuzha-Kumarakom stretch. Though they earn an estimated Rs 1,500 crore annually, there is no mechanism to contain plastic proliferation, which could provide relief to the river. They also demand conservation legislation for lakes. The study says plastics pose a risk of contaminating the food chain.
“As clams and fishes are the primary source of protein for the local population, the presence of microplastic particles in the lake becomes critically important, posing a severe threat of contaminating the food web of the lake," it says. Dr Priyadarsanan Dharma Rajan of the Bangalore-based Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE), who was studying the issue for a decade, believes the green protocol for houseboats is need of the hour. “The government has to constitute an authority with a democratic framework. The initiative would create awareness among tourists," he said.
Fishers collect tonnes of plastics during an annual 41-day cleaning up mission every Mandalakalam and use them for road construction. K.M. Poovu of Vembanad Kayal Samrakshana Samithy says houseboats dumping toilet waste and plastics is a huge threat to the ecosystem. “It has turned the water black. It loses an estimated 7,500 tonnes of fish wealth a year,” he claimed. “The green protocol is too little and late. The lake has already exceeded its capacity for houseboats."
Vembanad now has only 45 fish varieties, down from 150 a decade ago. TG Raghu of Alappuzha Tourism Development Cooperative Society (ATDC) says houseboats were willing to follow a green protocol. “A family of four in a houseboat would consume at least 15 litres of potable water a day and throw empty bottles into the lake. Houseboats can keep water in large tumblers and serve in steel glasses or earthen pots," he said.