Promised saviour of Vembanad Lake is yet to be born

Vembanad Kol Eco Development Authority (VEDA), the agency proposed to coordinate and oversee the conservation and management of the lake, has failed to take off even as the lake system is facing serious ecological onslaughts.

Ecological significance of this Ramsar site and the conservation and protection troubles faced by the lake has come under sharp focus with the Supreme Court recently highlighting the issues the ecosystem was facing.

The apex court had also asked various government agencies to explain the measures they had initiated for checking encroachments, pollution and conserving the ecology of the wetland.

It was two years ago that the Department of Environment took that the lead for constituting VEDA. The agency was conceived with the mandate for ensuring the “sustainable and healthy Vembanad socio-ecological system which supports its rich biodiversity and the livelihood needs of the stakeholders.”

It was also supposed to cover the Kochi Corporation and 38 Grama panchayats and three municipalities in Alapuzha, Kottayam, Ernakulam and Thrissur as the water spread of the lake extended to these districts. The views of the stakeholders were also elicited after circulating the concept note drawn up by the department. The mandate for forming the authority was shifted to the Water Resources Department after the Environment Department drew up the organisational structure of VEDA.

Now, its new managers are working on a proposal for framing the Act for VEDA.

V.J. Kurian, secretary, Water Resources, said the draft Act would be ready in a couple of months. It was hardly two months ago that the responsibility of forming the authority was handed over to the department, he said.

The current thinking in the Water Resources department is that the top executive of VEDA should be one with expertise in both environment management and engineering.

“If an environment expert is assigned the job, it might hamper the development initiatives and hence the suggestion for a person who is equally qualified in environment and engineering sciences,” sources said.

Once the Kerala State Water Resources Regulatory Authority Bill under the consideration of the Subject Committee of the State Assembly was passed VEDA too would be brought under the regulatory authority, which would have jurisdiction over all the rivers and water resources of the State, sources said.

Conservationists warning

N.K. Sukumaran Nair, general secretary of the Pampa Samrakshana Samiti, warned that the lake would vanish in another 50 years if its environmental degradation, including silting, encroachments and pollution, were not curbed.

He said the deteriorating environmental heath of the wetland system would boomerang and the State will have to pay a heavy price for it. The recent flood-related loss and deaths in Kuttanad were the outcome of environmental degradation of the lake, he said.

Latha Bhaskar, a water management expert, said there had been no effective steps for protecting the lake despite several projects proposed by various agencies. The management and conservation measures should be implemented in a participatory mode, Ms. Bhaskar said.

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Printable version | May 7, 2021 7:19:05 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/promised-saviour-of-vembanad-lake-is-yet-to-be-born/article5076410.ece

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