Kerala becoming warmer, says environment survey

T. Nandakumar

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: : Sustained multiple assaults on environment signal an emerging crisis for Kerala as large areas across the State struggle to cope with rising pollution levels, climate change and increased vulnerability to natural disasters.

The first `State of the Environment' report for Kerala which is scheduled to be released by Chief Minister Oommen Chandy here on Friday, provides an insight into the stress factors responsible for the impending threats.

The report states that unplanned urban growth, conversion of wetlands and fields, coastal erosion and increasing consumption of petroleum products have placed tremendous pressure on the limited natural resources in the State.

The report is the culmination of a two-year programme launched by the Kerala State Council for Science, Technology and Environment (KSCSTE) with assistance from the Ministry of Environment and Forests. As many as 17 research institutions and Government departments were involved in the exercise which covered six topics, namely climate change, water resources, marine and coastal environment, nature and biodiversity, air quality and noise levels and waste management.

Warming up

The survey confirms the rising trend of surface temperature across the State over a period of 43 years from 1961. Based on data accessed from the IMD, it estimates that the maximum temperature had risen by about 0.8 degress Celsius and the minimum by about 0.2 degree Celsius. On an average, Kerala has become warmer by around 0.5 degreee Celsius over the last 43 years, with the trend continuing, it states.

The report says that the accelerated emission of greenhouse gases could have fuelled the increase in surface temperature. On an average, nearly 7.5 million households in Kerala use 37.5 million kg of firewood while the annual consumption of petroleum products is 30,87,589 tonnes.

The report has identified the marine and coastal environment in the State as most vulnerable. The record growth of tourism is cited as the primary factor for the pressure on the coastal environment. Land use changes, sand mining, over-exploitation of mangroves and the growth of housing and industries are the other reasons.

Water situation

The report notes that the per capita fresh water availability in Kerala is one of the lowest in the country. While 17.2 per cent of the villages do not have access to safe drinking water, 90 per cent of open wells have been affected by faecal contamination. Industrial effluents have contaminated groundwater sources in the eastern parts of Aluva, Palakkad and some parts of Kollam, Kozhikode and Kannur.

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