A Rs.26-crore project for restoration of Vellayani Lake is on the anvil.

Even as a severe drought is brutally taking its toll on the Vellayani Lake, a glimmer of hope has begun shining from one corner for the beleaguered freshwater body in the form of a Rs.26-crore restoration project, for which an agreement has been signed and which is expected to be put in motion shortly.

The project, originally proposed by the Centre for Water Resources Development and Management (CWRDM) through the Department of Environment and now to be implemented under the aegis of the Thiruvananthapuram district panchayat, aims at ecological restoration of the lake in a phased manner over a period of five years.

Fund sources

To be executed with help from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and other funding sources, including the district panchayat’s own coffers, the project comprises about 10 components aimed at the comprehensive restoration of the lake as an ecologically rich biodiversity hub that remains a primary source of drinking water for a large area in the State capital, including the internationally popular tourist centre of Kovalam.

According to Rufus Daniel, vice-president, Thiruvananthapuram district panchayat, the project proposal had been forwarded to the district panchayat from the Department of Environment with a suggestion as well to think of removing the existing bund that divides the lake into two and to construct a bridge instead.

While such components were yet to be finalised, the agreement to go ahead with the restoration project had been signed and work would start in less than three weeks, Mr. Daniel told The Hindu.

The activities envisaged as part of the project include controlling the encroachment of the lake; compensation to ‘kayal’ land owners; agro-forestry; soil and water conservation; afforestation of adjoining areas; sustainable agriculture development; pollution abatement (including effluent treatment methods); de-silting (on the basis of hydro-graphic surveys, both manual and dredging); freshwater fisheries development (scientific aquaculture, replenishing of disappearing species, releasing native fish etc.,); setting up a laboratory for water quality assessment; weed control; conservation of flora and fauna; and awareness creation among user-groups and other social activities to protect the lake.

Various departments, including the Kerala Water Authority, will join hands to implement the project, Mr. Daniel said, adding that some of the components would also be implemented under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS).