Vembanad Kol Backwaters, India

Vembanad Kol located within backwaters of Kerala is essentially a brackish water system bestowed with unique biodiversity which provides livelihood support to a large community depending upon its resources for their sustenance.

Vembanad Kol located within backwaters of Kerala is essentially a brackish water system bestowed with unique biodiversity which provides livelihood support to a large community depending upon its resources for their sustenance.

The wetland system has been hub of the economic activities due to its location within the largest urban and industrial agglomeration in Kerala. It is also favoured destination for foreign and domestic tourists for recreation.

WISA undertook the task for formulation of management planning framework for this key Ramsar site based on rapid assessments of key wetland features, development activities, and stakeholder consultation. The project was supported through the Dutch Embassy in India.

Rapid assessments clearly highlighted that the developmental activities led by expansion and intensification of agriculture had been undertaken without realizing values and functions of ecosystem leading to fast deterioration of the ecosystem.

Kerala economy has undergone a rapid transition from a natural base resource production economy to an economy dependent on natural resource services. The developmental model follow has seriously impacted the resource base upon which sustainable economic growth is intricately linked.

Environmental implications

The action plans under implementation by various state government departments have focused on addressing human needs without assessing their environmental implications. Misplaced planning priorities are indicated in continued emphasis for agriculture and industrial development at the cost of multifunctional values provided by the wetlands through the natural functions and process.

Coastal backwaters have been considered as subservient to water needs for the developmental sectors and therefore heavily fragmented and regulated. The degradation of wetlands, therefore, poses a great threat for sustainability for economic growth for the entire region. he current management practices and institutional mechanisms are inadequate and inefficient in addressing the root cause problems of degradation of wetlands.

New approaches are required to address the problems of resource management with the objective of enhancing biodiversity, improving water regimes, and ensuring sustainable resource development. The approach emphasizes on harmonizing sectoral developments considering natural processes, functions and attributes of the wetland upon which sustainable development of all the sectors can be ensured.
Conclusions

The implementation of the project has clearly brought out that the community based approach needs to be adopted for conservation and sustainable use of wetland resources by integrating ecological, economic and social aspects.

The critical issue is harmonizing sectoral developments and adopting an integrated management approach to ensure the benefits of development are accrued to the stakeholders particularly local communities.

A broad framework has been proposed which emphasizes on land and water management, biodiversity conservation, sustainable resource development and livelihoods to maintain ecological integrity while providing sustained economic benefits.

Coordination

It has been proposed to establish Vembanad Kol Authority to coordinate activities within river basins integrating coastal processes. The authority will have the responsibility for institutional and financial arrangements promoting communication education public awareness and monitoring evaluation of activities within overall policy framework to be developed and supported by appropriate legal framework.

The authority, on a priority basis should undertake a coordinated monitoring and evaluation programme for prioritization of activities and developing implementation arrangements.