ALAPPUZHA: A long-term monitoring method to protect the Vembanad ecosystem that was threatened by the floods last year is being planned by a non-governmental organisation with the help of stakeholders and government agencies.
The initiative is being taken up by the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and Environment (ATREE) that has been working for the sustenance of the system for over a decade.
The monitoring plan aim at helping the authorities produce standardised data regarding the resources in the eco-system. The unique freshwater fish species, its variations, patterns, identification of groups and habitat availability will be brought under regular observation.
As per the IUCN list, five fish species found in Vembanad are vulnerable and five others are near-threatened.
Anu Radhakrishnan, research fellow with ATREE, said the plan is to help better management of the system. Apart from annual one-day fish count, there is no method to evaluate changes in the river system. The determination of data-based baseline is needed, especially during climate change, he pointed out.
The influence of Vembanad ecosystem is spread over 1.5 million people who reside around the lake. “We will bring local communities and institutions together in strengthening wetland management in the Vembanad Socio-Economic System (SES),” he said.
The Vembanad lake was declared as a Ramsar site of international importance in 2002. In 2011, the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) notification classified Vembanad SES as Critically Vulnerable Coastal Area (CVCA).
The long-term monitoring system will facilitate direct participation of stakeholders in efficient and sustainable management of Vembanad through a 'deliberative democratic approach' where policies and prioritisation are taken through consensus. The post-flood fish count conducted by ATREE in association with Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies (KUFOS) and the State Wetland Authority in January had found a dip in the availability of fish wealth in the lake.
The three-day count had found at least 115 fish varieties. In May last year, the fish count had identified 117 types of fishes across the lake.
Compared to the fish wealth studies in Vembanad in 1980-82, over 150 species had been found whereas the number has dwindled to the present values due to the human interventions. It is estimated that a total of 7,500 tonnes of fish wealth was depleting every year....