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Vembanad | Vembanad Wetland Conservation Program



Vembanad Socio – Ecological System

The Vembanad lake in Kerala, south India, a designated Ramsar site, foster high biological diversity, provide hydrological and ecological services and also support livelihoods of a huge rural population. The Lake which is spread across in three districts of Kerala – Ernakulam, Kottayam and Alappuzha – has a total surface area of 36,500 ha. It is a complex system of backwaters, marshes, lagoons, mangrove forests, reclaimed land and an intricate network of natural and manmade canals. Unique cultural traditions, water centered social institutions and lifestyles have evolved around the wetlands over time. Vembanad is emerging as one of the favourite tourist destinations in India.

Vembanad has high conservation priority owing to vanishing mangrove patches and declining diversity and population of fishes and migratory waterfowl.  Based on the rich biodiversity and socio-economic importance, Vembanad Lake was declared as a Ramsar site, a wetland of international importance in November 2002. Vembanad Lake, along with adjacent kol lands, is the largest Ramsar site in India and supports the third largest wintering waterfowl population of the country. The area is identified as an Important Bird Area (IBA) by Birdlife International.  The lake currently receives no official protection.  

The region around this lake is thickly populated  It is the lifeline of this area and the people living around are directly or indirectly dependant upon this wetland ecosystem for their livelihood.  The wetland support flood occlusion, fishery, lime shell fishery, agriculture, pollution abatement, navigation, port facility and tourism and coir industries.
There are regional variations in the economic status and resource use patterns surrounding the lake. The northern region adjacent to Cochin is more urbanized and industrialized. More people living in the southern region are engaged in agriculture and fisheries.

Vembanad had been subjected to intense human interventions for agriculture, promoted by local governments. The construction of Thanneermukkom salt-water barrier had altered the ecology of the lake system south of it. The environmental conditions of this lake are in a steady decline due to various anthropogenic activities which leads to severe livelihood crisis for the dependent communities. ATREE’s Vembanad Wetland Conservation Programme has been focusing on the southern areas of the south of Thanneermukkom barrie.


Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment
Community Environmental Resource Centre (CERC)

Vembanad Wetland Conservation Program