KOCHI: Unabated growth of water hyacinths in Vembanad lake is posing to be a major hindrance to the livelihood of fishermen families living along the banks of the water body. The accumulation of the invasive water plants which are six-feet-deep in certain areas, is making it difficult to navigate the lake. The overgrowth has affected regions of Kumbalam, Edakochi, Thevara and Udayamperoor which are situated along the lake.
“More than a quarter of the lake is covered by hyacinths, making it impossible for fishermen to berth their boats. Along with the overgrowth of the weeds, a large amount of mud and silt deposit in the water body prevents propagation of marine life. The number of the freshwater fish species is decreasing in the lake,” said V O Johny, district working president of Mathsya Thozhilali Federation (AITUC).
Kumbalam, an island surrounded by Vembanad Lake with a population of 500 fishermen families, has been adversely affected by pollution and the growth of water hyacinths. Locals say that numerous bridges connecting the island with the mainland have also led to the obstruction of the free flow of water, thereby resulting in accumulation of mud and growth of weed. Human intrusion along the banks has contributed to the dire situation.
The Chinese fishing nets that were once set up along the lake too have disappeared due to water hyacinths. “Many of the fishermen in Kumbalam panchayat set out for fishing during low tide. The boats are dragged into the river using ropes moored to stumps in the water body. But the overgrowth has made it difficult for them to tug boats. A landing centre which was constructed for fishermen to store their equipment has been surrounded by hyacinths. Since the overgrowth of the weed blocks the flow of water, families living along the lake are more prone to flooding during the monsoon,” said C P Ratheesh, Kumbalam panchayath ward member.
According to the panchayat authorities, the removal of hyacinths requires large funds. “Even though partial cleaning is carried out every year, we do not have resources to conduct the large scale cleaning required here,” said Seetha Chakrapani, panchayat president. “We have been demanding the formation of a Vembanad Lake Conservation Authority. We also want local bodies to bring in mechanical dredging machines to remove the mud and hyacinths. A package has to be envisaged to save the water body,” Johny added.
Locals say that numerous bridges connecting the island with the mainland have also led to the obstruction of the free flow of water, thereby resulting in accumulation of weeds and mud. Human intrusion along the banks of the water body too has contributed to a large extent.