Dams · Wetlands

South India Wetlands Review 2017: Wetlands Critical in Changing Climate


State wetlands face multiple threats In March 2017, a book titled “Biodiversity Richness of Kerala” revealed that riverine ecosystem of Kerala were subjected to human pressures in form of deforestation, land use change, construction of dams, roads, encroachments and mining affecting water holding capacity of the catchments and leading to drying up the rivers and wetlands. Kerala constituted only 1.18 per cent of India’s geographical area but it accommodated 25.69 per cent of the flowering plants in the country. In 2004, Kerala had around 328,402 hectare of wetlands which over the years had fallen to 160,590 hectare dramatic 49 per cent decrease. http://www.business-standard.com/article/news-ians/kerala-wetlands-face-multiple-threats-says-book-117030200590_1.html (Business Standard, 2 March 2017)

Mining posing threat to mangrove forests In Feb. 2017, the district environment committee of the Kerala Sastra Sahithya Parishad alleged that the mineral sand-mining activity carried out by the public-sector Indian Rare Earths along Vellanathurutu in Alapad panchayat was causing widespread damage to the naturally growing mangrove forests in the area. Calling for immediate ban on mining activity the committee complained that a destructive mechanical process was being applied in the area instead of applying the more eco-friendly beach washing method of mining.  According to committee the activity had already destroyed over 2 ha of mangrove forests at estuary where the Pallikkal River met the sea. At least 12 mangrove species, some of them threatened or endangered, were growing in the region. http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-kerala/Mineral-sand-mining-posing-threat-to-mangrove-forests/article17281729.ece (The Hindu, 10 Feb. 2017)

The mining area of the Indian Rare Earths at Vellanathuruthu where mangrove forests have been destroyed. (Image Source: The Hindu)

Study finds Vembanad wetlands hurtling towards crisis A study conducted under Kerala Agricultural University reported a high level of eutrophication of the Vembanad lake, a Ramsar site and the hub of backwater tourism in Kerala. Data collected by the environmental surveillance centre at RARS also indicated that the organic pollution of the lake was getting worse. The report was based on the analysis of data collected for five years on critical parameters. The study also found that pesticide residue from rice polders and nutrient discharge from urban settlements were aggravating the pollution of the Vembanad lake, playing havoc with the fragile wetland ecosystem and jeopardising its tourism potential. http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/vembanad-wetlands-hurtlingtowards-crisis-kau-study/article17329534.ece (The Hindu, 20 Feb. 2017)

Fishermen tackle pollution, clam theft to protect wetland In a welcome step, Lake Protection Forums created by fishermen dependent on Vembanad lake has been putting significant efforts to protect the wetland. The 1.5 million people supported by Vembanad were facing decline in yields as half the wetland’s 150 fish species have been wiped out since the Thanneermukkom barrage was built in 1975. The report also mentioned community conserved fish sanctuaries. http://news.trust.org/item/20170227120613-q7rxy/  (News Trust, 27 Feb. 2017)

The good clams of Ashtamudi This report is about how progress towards sustainable clam production was achieved in Ashtamudi lake. Spanning an area of 61 sq km, the Ashtamudi lake is considered the gateway to the backwaters of Kerala. While the lake on the outside radiates with natural beauty, there is a notable treasure nesting deep within its waters–the short-neck clams. http://www.indiawaterportal.org/articles/good-clams-ashtamudi (India Water Portal, 3 July 2017)

Residents halt wetland conversion Though the local people did not allow the work to be completed, a major portion of the site had already been filled for business ventures in Lakkidi and surrounding areas in Kunnathidavaka village, a hotspot on the Western Ghats and major catchment area of the Kabani river, in Wayanad district. http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/residents-halt-wetland-conversion/article20446178.ece (The Hindu, 14 Nov. 2017)

Bird Atlas puts focus on wetlands Meanwhile Kerala Bird Atlas survey has found that groves of the midland in Kannur district support a meta population of forest birds & 24% of species in the district subsist on unprotected wetlands. http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-kerala/bird-atlas-puts-focus-on-wetlands/article20423481.ece (The Hindu, 14 Nov. 2017)

Restoring wetlands for climate resilience The Rs. 25-crore project taken up by the Agency for Development of Aquaculture (ADAK) under the Department of Fisheries seeks to restore and manage a total of 600 ha of coastal wetlands for carbon sequestration and production of paddy and fish. It is the only project in Kerala to have been approved for assistance from the National Adaptation Fund for Climate Change (NAFCC). http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-kerala/restoring-wetlands-for-climate-resilience/article20608548.ece (The Hindu, 21 Nov. 2017)

Changaram wetlands, a haven no longer for migratory birds Known as a haven for birds, the Changaram wetlands (Changaram padam) at Ezhupunna would not live up to its reputation owing to the large-scale laying of traps in the name of prawn cultivation. The birds, especially ducks, are trapped in the nylon threads when they hit the ground during nights. The trap is not the only threat being faced by the birds, their natural habitat has degraded considerably owing to rampant waste dumping and construction activities not to mention of poaching.  http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/a-haven-no-longer-for-migratory-birds/article22328540.ece  (The Hindu, 30 December 2017)


Chennai Poromboke Paadal ft. TM Krishna The video report shows that the Ennore Creek is being slowly choked. This dynamic brackish water wetlands complex with mangroves, salt pans, tidal mudflats and flowing water protects us from flooding and cyclonic storm surges, and supports fisher livelihoods. The degraded state of the Ennore Creek is only the symptom; our corrupt, inept and unaccountable regulators are the disease. Thanks, Nityanand Jayaraman, for this enchanting and yet disturbing video, it is amazing at so many levels, but most importantly, is about an ongoing, live issue, urging us to be Poromboke. 

Wetland under threat in Manjoor town A piece of pristine wetland in Manjoor town faced an existential threat as the TANGEDCO planned to dump sand collected from desilting the Kundah Dam at the spot. The wetland, located along the Manjoor to Coimbatore Road, is rife with native species of trees as well as grasslands. An access road to the swamp has already been dug with the use of an earth mover. Some of the varieties of grass found only in wetland swamps have already been removed.  http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Coimbatore/Wetland-under-threat-in-Manjoor-town/article17310870.ece (The Hindu, 16 Feb. 2017)

80 per cent fall in arrival of birds to wetlands The 7th edition of Tamirabharani Waterbird Count (conducted in the wetlands of Tirunelveli and Thoothukudi districts between Feb 3-7, 2017) there recorded a drop of over 80% in the arrival of birds in the wake of failure of northeast monsoon which has turned most of the wetlands dry in the district. The researchers have also found that invasive plants have encroached many wetlands. De-silting has not been done in any tank. Moreover, the tanks are used for dumping garbage and wastes. Loads of plastics dumped in Nainarkulam in Tirunelveli has made it inhabitable for birds. http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Madurai/80-fall-in-arrival-of-birds-to-wetlands/article17307861.ece (The Hindu, 15 Feb. 2017)

The ornamental plant that grew to ravage water bodies The invasive plants named Ipomea carnea, has done to water bodies what seemai karuvelam (Prosopis juliflora) did to lands. Ipomea carnea, also known as Neyveli kattamanakku has clogged every water body in the State and proved detrimental to its aquatic ecosystems. Such species were either introduced as ornamental plants or entered India inadvertently. They say that it is highly adaptive plant and thrives both in inundated as well as dry conditions. It has the capacity to dry a river, invite other plants and in the process create islands in water bodies affecting the flow of water. http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/the-ornamental-plant-that-grew-to-ravage-tamil-nadus-water-bodies/article17744805.ece (The Hindu, 30 March 2017)

Seeing red over green: Neyveli kaatamanakku and the ‘aligator weed’ that is being sold as ponnanganni.  (Image Source: The Hindu)

Story of degradation of Ousteri wetland Ousteri lake is the largest water body in the Puducherry region. Every year, the lake provides irrigation and tourism benefits worth Rs 11.5 million and Rs 5.72 million respectively and plays a crucial role in recharging groundwater aquifers. The lake is also a resting ground for many migratory birds and provides livelihood to thousands of people.

It has been recognised as one of the important wetlands of Asia by IUCN. It is the largest freshwater lake in the Puducherry region. The lake, which is 390 ha in area, supports a variety of fauna and flora. But, in the last one decade, 1120 ha of land around the lake has been converted into commercial non-agricultural purposes. The lake has suffered pressure from land-use changes in the catchment area, encroachment, siltation, pollution from the industry and agriculture. http://www.indiawaterportal.org/articles/ousteri-lake-needs-help (India Water Portal, 19 Sept. 2017)

Wetland birds killing widespread  As per researchers hundreds of thousands of waterbirds being killed every year across India in non-protected wetlands and such a high scale of hunting was unknown previously. Surprisingly, the movement patterns of most of the birds in India are yet unrecorded. Contrary to assumptions, hunting is driven by market demand and not subsistence. Activists say that migratory water birds hunting remains one of the least studied aspects of bio-diversity conservation in India. http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-in-school/in-troubled-waters/article19717586.ece  (The Hindu, 20 Sept. 2017)

Govt notifies wetlands protection committee In Oct. 2017, the state govt has notified committees for the protection of the wetlands. This seems largely following the Supreme Court directions, but unless the committees have at least 50% of the members from credible independent non govt persons, there is little hope for improvement. http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-tamilnadu/govt-notifies-committees-for-protection-of-wetlands/article19892946.ece (The Hindu, 21 Oct. 2017)

Encroached wetlands, cut trees increase climate risks in Chennai While we need sponge cities, we are actually going in opposite direction as this report from Chennai illustrates. Using historical geo-spatial data, Care Earth Trust has developed maps that show the relationship of water bodies to built-up area in the city and the green cover within the city. As the blue (of the wetlands and water bodies) and green (vegetation cover) decreased in the past three decades over the Chennai metropolitan area, the red of built up area increased. http://indiaclimatedialogue.net/2017/10/23/landscape-changes-increase-climate-risks-chennai/ (India Climate Dialogue, 23 Oct. 2017)

Documentary on water bodies ‘Coimbatore’s Last Drop,’ a 20-min documentary aimed at creating an awareness about the city’s much abused lakes  Selvachintamani, Muthannan, Singanallur, Ukkadam and the Noyyal River. http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Coimbatore/documentary-on-water-bodies/article20464045.ece (The Hindu, 16 Nov. 2017)

A rare bird sighted at the city lake In Dec. 2017, the Great Crested Grebe a resident bird of the U.K. that breeds in Central Asia and migrates to Northern India for winter was spotted  in Coimbatore. While the resident little grebes (small in size), are often seen in wetlands in India, the Great Crested Grebes are much larger and rarely seen in Tamil Nadu. http://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/the-great-crested-grebe-stops-by-coimbatore/article22258043.ece (The Hindu, 22 Dec. 2017)

Great Crested Grebe stops by Coimbatore (Image Source: Hindu)


30,000 dead fish floating in polluted Hyderabad lake Nearly, 30,000 rohu, bochha (katla), bangaru theega and koramenu species were killed in the latest incident at the Hyderabad lake located about 30 km from the city, authorities said. A week ago about 40,000 dead fish were found floating in Shamirpet lake, while over  20,000 were found dead in Medchal lake earlier. Officials blamed heat. Fishermen suspected alarming levels of pollution in urban lakes around Hyderabad could be another reason for the recent spate of fish deaths.

As per experts lakes and tanks around city are becoming a deadly mix of domestic sewage, municipal waste and hazardous waste dumped irresponsibly by industries. When it rains, all this flows into lakes and tanks. Since these wastes contain all kinds of acids, plastics and chemicals, the subsequent reactions reduce the level of dissolved oxygen in water which makes it impossible for fish to survive. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/hyderabad/now-30000-dead-fish-found-floating-in-rampally-lake/articleshow/58887422.cms (The Times of India, 29 May 2017)

Ameenpur lake becomes first urban biodiversity heritage site India recently conferred biodiversity heritage status on an unlikely candidate – the Ameenpur Lake on the fringes of Hyderabad. Other sites across the country also received this distinction. Among them are the shola grasslands of Chikmagalur, the pristine forests of Gadchiroli and Dailong village in Manipur. http://www.earthamag.org/stories/2017/6/21/indias-first-urban-biodiversity-heritage-tag-a-ray-of-hope-for-lake-conservationists (Eartha, 21 June, 2017)

‘Orphaned’ lakes to blame for Hyderabad floods A little more than two-thirds of the lakes in and around Hyderabad have been `orphaned’ with their inlet and outlet channels cut off due to unchecked urbanisation and encroachments in the last four decades.

Hundreds of lakes in Hyderabad were planned during the Qutub Shahi and Asaf Jahi periods in such a way that flood water from one water body flowed into another, ultimately emptying into the River Musi. All the major water bodies – Medchal lake, Shamirpet lake, Hussainsagar, Safilguda lake, Ibrahimpatnam lake, Dindigul lake, Saroornagar lake, Hashmatpet lake, Fox Sagar – were linked to the Musi. But unchecked encroachment in the outflow and inflow channels has broken the vital water chain obstructing the flow of rainwater into the river.

An analysis of the satellite data has revealed that it is the `orphaning’ of scores of city lakes that is causing floods year after year. The flooding was due to failure to restore the original rainwater flow system developed by the Qutub Shahis and the Asaf Jahis. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/hyderabad/orphaned-lakes-to-blame-for-hyderabad-floods/articleshow/61030115.cms (The Times of India, 11 Oct. 2017)

Superbugs in the lakes of Hyderabad This is a very detailed report on how effluents from pharmaceutical companies containing high concentrations of antibiotics are turning the city’s lakes and sewers into breeding grounds of drug-resistant superbugs that could hasten the end of the antibiotic era. http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/the-superbugs-of-hyderabad/article20536685.ece (The Hindu, 18 Nov. 2017)

Hussainsagar lake spews froth Several research studies have revealed that the Hussainsagar had turned into a biological laboratory producing bacteria that have become resistant to a broad spectrum of antibiotics. Even third generation antibiotics are not responding to the bacteria that thrive in Hussainsagar. Already the lake, built about 450 years ago, is dead for all practical purposes and with pollutants of all description entering the lake unchecked, it has started frothing. 

Since Hussainsagar is connected to the Musi, which in turn empties into the river Krishna, any sort of pollution in the historic lake is bound to affect the quality of water in other water bodies not only in Telangana but also AP. A team from Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, which carried out research on the quality of water in the lake, had warned of mutation of bacteria in the water body due to high levels of pollution. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/hyderabad/hussainsagar-spews-froth-first-time-toxic-alarm-rings/articleshow/61697780.cms (The Times of India, 18 Nov. 2017)

2999 water bodies disappeared in 10 year As per latest Jan. 2018 report, urban sprawl has caused 2,999 water bodies to disappear in the city between 2005 and 2016. The report also mentions that from 5,011 water bodies in 2005, the number has plunged to 2,012 in 2016 —that means a whopping 60 per cent of water bodies have disappeared in the last ten years. Further, only 37,908 hectare of rainfed cropland is available of 72,817 hectare that was there in 2005 at an alarming drop of 52 percent in a single decade. The cropland includes fallow, shrubs, scrubland, and grass. http://www.newindianexpress.com/cities/hyderabad/2018/jan/23/whopping-60-per-cent-of-hyderabads-water-bodies-disappeared-in-last-10-years-says-new-study-1761705.html  (The New Indian Express, 23 Jan. 2018)

ICRISAT develops constructed wetlands, a new technique to treat sewage Constructed wetlands is not a new idea, but it would have been good if the reporter had written about actual constructed wetlands and results, including costs and benefits. It is indeed good if it is already happening in Hyderabad. http://www.newindianexpress.com/states/telangana/2018/jan/20/icrisat-develops-constructed-wetlands-a-new-technique-to-treat-sewage-in-telangana-1759162.html  (New Indian Express, 20 Jan. 2018)


NBWL panel rejects move to shrink Kolleru Sanctuary In a welcome move, the working group constituted by the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL), in Feb. 2017, rejected the “drastic reduction” in Kolleru Wildlife Sanctuary (KWLS) from Contour as per the State Assembly Resolution. Submitting its report to the NBWL recently, the team said that there should be “no compromise with the ecological balance (of the lake) by drastic reduction in sanctuary areas. The working group also recommended the removal from KWLS nearly 13,673 acres (5,533.3 hectares) of private (ziroyati) lands located within its north-eastern boundary. http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/aps-bid-to-reduce-sanctuary-size-rejected/article17337304.ece (The Hindu, 21 Feb. 2017)

Fishermen set out with cane fish traps at Pandiripalligudem in the Kolleru Lake of Andhra Pradesh. ( Image by Ch. Vijaya BhaskarCH_VIJAYA BHASKAR, The Hindu)  

Compiled by Bhim Singh Rawat (bhim.sandrp@gmail.com)

Also see, Karnataka Wetlands Review 2017: Bellandur Lake Remains On Fire 

3 thoughts on “South India Wetlands Review 2017: Wetlands Critical in Changing Climate

  1. Kerala loosing wetlands even in the world wet land day when speeches and programmes are on. Calicut Kotili famous wetland faces water problems. even vigilence department seen failed to take action. Vinod


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.