A chance to lounge on a houseboat on the Vembanad, cocooned in greenery and enjoying the expanse of water, is probably a reason for the increasing tourist footfalls to Kerala.

But the backwaters keep stark, silent facts submerged in its alluring waters. Tourism may have had a dream run in the area, but left to suffer its consequences is ecology, pristine and sensitive as per several global standards.

A study conducted by the Alappuzha District Panchayat last year had indicated that huge quantities of waste were being dumped by the houseboats into the Vembanad Lake — the largest wetland ecosystem in South India and declared a Ramsar Site in 2002. The report also noted that the fish wealth in the lake was on the decline.

Studies by the Regional Agricultural Research Station (RARS), Kumarakom, earlier this year show that the Coliform bacteria count in the lake has crossed 1,000, several hundred times the permissible levels.

Another study by the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE), a Bangalore-based non-governmental organisation, in association with the Vembanad Lake Protection Forum, show the level of Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) has increased and that the level of dissolved oxygen is steadily plunging.

The findings may not come as a surprise to those who have been following developments in and around the lake, which now has about 600 houseboats operating on it.

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