Vembanad Lake



Vembanad Lake is the longest and largest lake in the state of Kerala spanning over three different districts - Alappuzha in the south, Ernakulam in the North & Kottayam in the East separated from the Arabian sea by a narrow reef.

It is a complex interconnected network of backwaters, small islands, marshes, mangrove forests, and a network of natural and man-made canals. Vembanad Lake is considered as the backbone of Kerala’s backwater tourism.

Because of its massive ecological biodiversity, Vembanad-Kol Wetland (1512.5 Sq.km)  is classified as an “Ecologically Sensitive Zone” as per the Environmental Protection Act 1985, by the Ministry of Environment and Forests and has been included as one of the three Ramsar Wetlands Sites (a wetland of global importance) from Kerala. 

It is also considered as the second largest wetland ecosystem in India under the National Wetlands Conservation Programme (NWCP) in 2009.

It is known as "Vembanadu Lake" in Alappuzha,  "Kochi Lake" in Kochi, and the Nehru Trophy Boat Race, where the magnificent snake boats compete, is also conducted on the portion of the lake known as "Punnamada Lake" at the Kuttanad region. The northern extension of Vembanad Lake in Kochi from Kochi Azhi to Munambam Azhi known as the "Veeranpuzha."

The lake is fed by 10 rivers throughout the year and lies at the sea level and spans around 14 km at its widest point. 

Much of the reclaimed land on the Vembanad lake lies below the sea level in the Kuttanad region, making it a recipient of nutrient-rich alluvial soil suitable for rice cultivation once the floodwaters recede.

Characteristics

  • Water area: 2033 km².
  • Mangroves area: 2,114sq km.
  • Longest Lake in India.
  • Largest Lake in Kerala.
  • Primary inflows: Achenkovil, Manimala, Meenachil, Muvattupuzha, Pamba, Periyar.
  • Primary outflows: Several canals.
  • Islands: Pathiramanal, Perumbalam, Pallippuram, Willingdon, Vypin, Vallarpadam.
  • Biggest natural island: Pathiramanal (Kumarakom).
  • Most populated island: Vypin.
  • Events: Nehru Trophy Boat Race.
  • Other names: Punnamada Lake, Kochi Kayal, Veeranpuzha, Kaithapuzha.

Places of Importance:

Thanneermukkom Barrage - An artificial hydraulic barrier 

 Thanneermukkom saltwater barrier was built in the year 1975 under the Kuttanad Development Scheme. The 1410 meters long barrier's construction works were started in 1956 and was made operational in 1976. It is India's largest mud-based saltwater barrier built to separate the fresh water from the brackish water. 

It was constructed in a narrower part (1 mile) of the Vembanad Lake in order to prevent saltwater entering into the low lying areas of the Kuttanad region and successfully retaining the freshwater availability for irrigation and domestic purposes. Thus enabling "below sea level farming method" in Kuttanad.

Out of the 90 shutters,  two-thirds of it is opened during the monsoon season for facilitating the flood flow and after Mid-November, the shutters remain closed.

It connects Vechoor of Vaikom taluk of Kottayam district and Thanneermukkom of Cherthala taluk Alappuzha district.

Thottappally Spillway

The 358m wide Thottappally Spillway is a flood controlling mechanism which is located in the south-west part of the Kuttanad region of the Alappuzha district along National Highway 66 was built to drain out floodwater from Pamba, Manimala river, and Achancovil river during the monsoon season. 

It also curtails the salt-water intrusion from the Arabian sea into the freshwater of the Thottappally lake which in turn facilitates the cultivation of rice in the Kuttanad region.

 Vaikom Mahadeva Temple

It is an ancient Shiva temple dating back to the 16th century situated on the banks of the Vembanad Lake, where 3 channels of the Muvattupuzha river merges in the town of Vaikom

It played an important part in Kerala's history as the notable event of Vaikom Satyagraha (a struggle against untouchability) that occurred there in 1924.

Vaikom Mahadeva Temple is known as "Dakshinakasi" of the south where the 12-day annual festival "Vaikathashtam" is celebrated in the Malayalam month of Vrischikam (November/December).

Cochin Port

The Port of Kochi situated on Willingdon Island is one of the most prominent natural ports in India is formed by the confluence of Vembanad Lake in the south and Periyar River in the north. It expands over to Vallarpaddam and PuthuVypin. 

It was opened for commercial use in 1928 and is operated under the Cochin Port Trust and Dubai Ports World. The International Container Trans-shipment Terminal (ICTT), part of the Cochin Port, is considered as the largest container transshipment facility in India.

 Kumarakom Tourist Spot

The most popular tourist destination "Kumarakom Tourist Village" is situated on the east coast of the Vembanad lake. 

Kumarakom became one of the 17 “Iconic Tourist Sites” proposed by the Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharamanin the Budget 2019-20, that would be developed into a world-class tourist destination.

Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary

On the northern fringes of Kumarakom village is the "Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary" located on the banks of the Vembanad Lake in the Kottayam district. 

Spread out over 14 hectares, it is the en route of the Central Asian Flyway of rare migratory birds and has over 20,000 water birds.

Vembanad Lake & Maradu Demolition

Vembanad Lake was recently in news due to the demolition of four high-rise apartment complexes along the Vembanad lake in Maradu, on the outskirts of Kochi. 

The demolitions were carried out on the orders of the Supreme court for violating the Coastal Zone Regulation guidelines (CRZ guidelines specifically CRZ II & CRZ III ), which were framed to protect the ecologically sensitive areas. Supreme Court's order was to demolish 5 buildings out of which only 4 were constructed. 

The order came on a special leave petition (SLP) filed by the Kerala Coastal Zone Management Authority (KCZMA).

According to the Kerala Coastal Zone Management Authority, the spread of the Vembanad lake which was around 130.68 sq. km, in 1967 was reduced to 9.382 sq. km in 2004 and then to 3.292 sq. km in 2011. 

Other than construction-related encroachments, the lake is facing threats from illegal agricultural expansion, illegal sand mining from the river bed, aquaculture, plastic waste, large engineering structures, high rate of soil erosion, harbor development and waste disposal from the houseboats.

Following the Maradu demolition, the government of Kerala has identified 26,000 cases of suspected CRZ violations. 

Click here read more on CRZ Guidelines


SideNotes:

  • World Wetlands Day – February 2.
  • Largest Lake in Kerala – Vembanad Lake.
  • Longest Lake in India – Vembanad Lake.
  • Largest artificial/man-made island in India – Willingdon Island.
  • Second Largest Port in the west coast of India – Kochi Port.
  • Largest wetland ecosystem in India – Sunderbans Wetland, West Bengal (4230 Sq.km).
  • South India's Largest Wetland ecosystem – Vembanad-Kol Wetland. 
  • Vembanad-Kol Wetland was included in Ramsar Sites on – November 2002.
  • Longest rail bridge in Kerala – Vembanad Rail Bridge (4.62 Km).
  • Vembanad Rail Bridge connects – Edappally & Vallarpadam (Kochi) across Vembanad Lake.
  • Andhakaranazhi connects the Arabian sea and  – Vembanad lake.
  • Longest railway bridge in India – Bogibeel bridge(4.94 Km), Arunachal Pradesh.
  • Kuttanad Development Project submitted by – P.H. Vaidyanathan (Chief Engineer).
  • Supreme Court's Judges who issued the Maradu Demolition order – Arun Mishra & Navin Sinha.

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