The blankets of thick, lush green leaves with lavender flowers that float on top of the Vembanad Lake and adjoining water bodies has once again started throwing the normal life into complete disarray across the backwater landscape of Kottayam. As the water level in rivers has begun to drop with the rising temperature, the villages here are witnessing a proliferation of water hyacinths. These densely- intertwined carpets, which mostly accumulate along the opening of various canals and rivers to the lake, has severely affected two key activities in the region -- inland fishery and tourism.
“A vast area of the lake from Vechur near Vaikom to Kavanattinkara is so chocked with the weeds that our boats just can not move through these plants as it damages the engine. The smaller boats, which usually ply along the canals, have cancelled operations to several routes,” explained V.R. Soji, secretary, House Boat owners Welfare Society.
The tourist boat sector in Kottayam, which comprises about 350 vessels including house boats, chikaras and canoes, provides employment to about 1,500 people from the region.
According to K. Arun Kumar, secretary, the Chamber of Vembanad Hotels and Resorts (CVHR), any disruption in tourist boat operation is bound to affect the tourism prospects of the entire region, which is primarily dependent on the backwater system.
“Even the in-house guests can’t watch the lake side beauty as the weeds are severely polluting the water. The house boat cruises, meanwhile, are now scheduled on the basis of which direction these weeds are moving through the water,” he noted.
The local community, who eke out a living through fishing or clam collection, have almost stopped venturing into the lake due to the difficulty in navigating their canoe through the weeds. The transportation of agricultural labourers across the lake and drinking water to the isolated locations also remains a matter of concern in view of an explosion of water hyacinths.
“The problem is only going to worsen as the Thannermukkam bund will remain closed for the next few months. What we require at this stage is a joint action involving the district administration, local panchayats and other departments to clear these water bodies,” said an official with the Major Irrigation Department.