Drowned in waste

Although the deterioration of the Vembanad Lake ecosystem cannot be blamed entirely on houseboat tourism, its role in lowering the water quality is quite evident.

Under the rules, every houseboat should be equipped with a bio-tank to collect the sewage from the toilets and the outlet pipes of the bio-tank should be above the waterline mark of boat. However, the 2017 CAG report revealed that the final outlet pipes from the bio-tank of most of houseboats were fitted below the waterline mark of boats. “This meant that sewage from the bio-tank was getting discharged through the final outlet pipe below the water surface,” the report said.

The report further blamed the Kerala State Pollution Control Board (PCB), another stakeholder in the houseboat industry, for its failure to conduct periodic inspection and water analysis. Although it is mandatory for all boats to visit the sewage treatment plant located at H-block every four months to flush clean the toilets, lax monitoring on the part of the Pollution Control Board is giving the houseboats the opportunity to circumvent rules.

N. Nandini Menon, senior scientist, Nansen Environmental Research Centre India, who had conducted a study on the ‘Effect of Houseboats on Vembanad Lake Ecosystem - An Environmental Impact Assessment Study’ in 2015, had observed that houseboat operation could be directly linked to faecal pollution, PAH pollution and increased turbidity in the Vembanad waters.

“The ignorance of the crew is the main reason for the discharge of solid wastes and sewage waste into the lake. More than the operators, it is the visitors, especially domestic tourists, who are to be blamed for polluting the lake. The tourists often throw plastic material, liquor bottles, etc., into the water,” Ms. Menon said.

Plastic waste

T.D. Jojo, project coordinator, Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (Atree), told The Hindu that the dumping of plastic materials was a major cause of concern. “The houseboat operators are slowly becoming aware of the danger. Last year, they conducted a cleaning drive and removed several sacks of plastic waste from the bottom of the lake. It is a good sign. There is need to create more awareness,” Mr. Jojo said.

Atree, in association with the Samyuktha Vembanad Kayal Samrakshana Samithi (SVKSS), an organisation of fishermen, has been conducting an annual campaign to rid Vembanad Lake of plastic. This year, the seventh year of the campaign, 76 sacks of plastic waste have been collected from the lake by the fishermen.

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Printable version | Nov 28, 2021 8:53:19 PM |

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