About Kerala Rivers
Of Kerala‘s 44 rivers, 41 flow westwards and the rest towards east. The basin area of major rivers is located within the Western Ghats, a global biodiversity hotspot, while some other northern rivers originate in laterite hills. The short length of the rivers coupled with very high population density (over 30 million people living in a land area of 38,000 sq km) creates high dependency on water and the rivers‘ susceptibility towards environmental onslaughts.
In the six major rivers featured in the Status Report, we discuss biodiversity in riparian upper catchments and low lying wetlands. Overall, the southern Western Ghats region with catchments including many of the major riers of Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu has the highest freshwater species richness (260–312 species) and endemism (103–129 species), with particularly unique diversity of fish in Chalakudy and Periyar rivers. In rivers like Bharatapuzha, of the 6000 odd sq km catchment, a mere 100 sq km has intact forests in the catchment of Kunthipuzha, the lifeline of the river‘s summer flows. The Vembanad-Kol wetland, the largest estuarine system in India, is fed by 10 rivers. It supports diverse livelihoods – below sea level paddy farming, fishing, coir retting, to name a few. The wetlands offer flood protection for thickly-populated coastal areas and contributes to groundwater recharge.