Malabar Mail: Celebrating the spirit of the region

The dying lake of Wayanad

Pookode Lake, a major tourism destination in Wayanad district, recorded a low arrival of tourists this season.

Pookode Lake, a major tourism destination in Wayanad district, recorded a low arrival of tourists this season.  

Construction and farming activities posing grave threats to Pookode Lake

Debates on conserving biodiversity-rich areas often fall on deaf ears. The Pookode Lake in Wayanad, an ecologically fragile district, is a glaring example. The second largest freshwater lake in the State is dying.

A large part of the 5.172 hectares of the lake has turned into green grassland because of soil erosion brought about by uncontrolled construction and farming activities taking place in areas around the lake. The lake is dying mainly due to anthropogenic activities, eutrophication (a process by which waterbodies receive excess nutrients that stimulate excessive plant growth), and accumulation of sediments owing to soil erosion.

According to a study, the maximum depth of the lake has declined to 6.5 metres from 12 metres nearly four decades ago. Construction activities by the Tribal Development Department atop the hill, hardly 500 metres away from the lake to provide houses to landless tribals, pose threat to the waterbody.

Four streams originating from the surrounding hills provide the lifeline of the waterbody. Any construction activity on the nearby hills will sound the death knell for the streams and finally, the lake.

Pookode Lake is an important eco-tourism destination in the district. According to a recent study by the Centre for Water Resources Development and Management (CWRDM), Kozhikode, every year the number of tourists visiting the lake is on the rise. The study also found that the environmental quality of the lake was deteriorating owing to various human activities.

The lake environment is extremely sensitive to environmental changes in its watershed. Worse, when phenomena like eutrophication and pollution occur, even though they may proceed slowly, the damage caused is correspondingly difficult, if not impossible, to reverse.

Though the lake is in the possession of the Fisheries Department, it has been developed as an eco-tourism centre on the direction of the district administration in the 1990s. It is the habitat of several endemic and critically endangered fish species, including Puntius pookodensis (Pookode Barb). The lake shore is also a major habitat of nearly 70 species of birds and nearly 60 species of Odonate.

Today, more than half the portion of the lake is covered with three species of water weeds. The long-term damage to aquatic native biodiversity they can cause is still unknown.

It is high time an urgent intervention was made to preserve the lake. Unfortunately, the district administration is yet to adopt measures to save the dying lake. Though a main stream of the Thalipuzha River, a tributary of the Kabani, originates from the lake, the natural flow of water has been closed by the Tourism authorities for boating purposes.

We should pay heed to experts on freshwater resources who warn that while what happens in the air, on land, and in the sea, affects lakes and rivers, we are all affected by what happens in lakes and rivers.

(MALABAR MAIL is a weekly column by The Hindu’s correspondents that will reflect Malabar’s life and lifestyle)

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Printable version | Apr 2, 2020 1:33:58 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/the-dying-lake-of-wayanad/article31026664.ece

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