PARAVUR LAKE


 

Study & Analysis on the degradation of Paravoor Lake

Paravoor Lake is famous for its breadth taking natural beauty, fish rich waters and the natural estuary. Ihthikara River when in spate empties its flood water into the lake which in turn naturally opens up the estuary with slight assistance from the indigenous fishermen community.

Through this natural occurring it empties the rain waters from Kollams elevated areas into the Arabian Sea as and when needed during the monsoons. This phenomenon of nature, safeguards the people along the Ihthikara River banks as well as the fisher dwellings on the banks of the Paravoor Lake. Ihthikara River flows about 3 Kms through the Paravoor Lake via Ihthikara, Pullichira, Kakkotmoola & Mayyanad before flowing into the Arabian Sea through the natural estuary at Lakshmipuram Thoppu, Mayyanad. Ihthikara River’s natural flow through the Paravoor Lake this far can only be explained by an indigenous fishermen and it with awe one views a local fisherman navigating the choppy waters when the river is in deluge.

Nature unique amalgamation of three forms of water bodies produces a unique fertility which fishes prefer to thrive and fisher folk love to feast upon. Indigenous people link this phenomenon to the local church festival as it coincides with the rainy season. It’s their belief estuary will break open and they will have a season of plenty once the flag is hoisted at Pullichira Marian Church. There has been a three way mechanism where fishes which initially originate from the paddy fields along the Ihthikara River would get carried down to Itthikkara River during rainy season. They grow up in the fresh waters of Ihthikara and in spate get washed down 56 km down south to the Paravoor Lake. The force of the underwater stream (Itthikkara River which flows through Paravoor Lake) is such that it’s slow but firm knock on the tiny strip of land at Lakshmipuram Thoppu (Mukkam) in between the sea and the lake, eventually leads to the natural opening up of the estuary. This enables fishes from Arabian Sea to move into the Paravoor Lake swimming up the fresh water stream flowing into the sea in the guise of looking for the fresh water source. This unique phenomenon had tremendous benefits for aquatic habitat, environment, ecosystem and huge benefits to the fishermen community at large.

Once the excess water gets emptied into the Arabian Sea and the flow becomes a trickle, the estuary closes itself due to sand formation developed by the combinations of under water currents from lake, river & sea at the mouth of the estuary which works in varied directions so that sand heaps up and its back to normal. This is a huge tourist draw for people from far and near as they get to walk on the mud deposits formed during this unique natural occurrence. This natural system gets repeated time and again when nature deems it necessary to protect its inhabitants.

Significance of the phenomenon

This unique phenomenon of nature imbibes in it flow management systems like fresh water management, control of saline water, cleansing of the saline content in the river and flood control. More importantly studies have to be done to ascertain how the amalgamation of river, lake and sea waters assists the respective fish species from the various water bodies and contributes immensely to the livelihood of the indigenous fishermen community. This natural occurring sustains the entire stretch of Itthikkara banks, the health of Paravoor Lake, prevents water logging in mainland, occurrences of water borne diseases and maintains its natural ecosystems and biodiversity. During monsoons as the river is in spate it cleanses the system of its accumulated salinity thereby aiding further growth of its fresh water fish species till the next monsoons. Fresh water fishes which originate in the paddy fields all along Itthikkara river banks finds its way into the river during rainy season. This prevents surplus water logging in the fields which is detrimental to agriculture. By virtue of this happening the plains around the Itthikkara rivers bank never gets into a deluge like situation, thus saving lakhs of rupees on relocation and diseases during monsoon. This process in itself sustains fresh water life in Itthikkara River. With the impregnation of Paravoor Kayal’s underbelly with water and fresh fish species of unique medicinal properties from the river, the fishing community is on song.As all they have to do is venture out and lay their nets for a bountiful catch of freshwater fish. Once the water in the lake reaches a certain level and the mouth of the river is in full force the estuary opens up naturally like opening of the womb into the mighty Arabian Sea without any man made mechanisms. It’s another mater that a small nudge here or there by the local fishermen aids the process of the opening the womb, by performing the role of the watchful midwife. When fresh water guts into the sea, the stream of fresh water forms a rare distinct stream pattern in sea and eventually draws sea fishes towards it and in the process they get closer to the source of fresh water closer to the Mayyanad beach and eventually finds it way into the Paravoor Lake. Lakshmipuram Thoppu’s sea faring fishermen feast on this tremendous opportunity as well as there brethren in and around Kollam & Thiruvanathapuram coasts.The entire region feasts on this abundant natural wealth by moving into festive spirits.

As the river runs through Paravoor Lake with full force it prevents the intrusion of salinity upstream. Once the flood water recedes, and the inflow into the sea tapers, the estuary closes itself naturally thereby preventing further entry of saline water into the lake. Overall it’s a culmination of several important sequences in the natural flow system which sustains life in the water bodies as well as assists the regions people by preventing floods and providing immense livelihood opportunities.

Closure of Estuary

Ignoring the various sane voices of the indigenous people who have been the beneficiaries of nature’s protection and living in harmony with it for centuries the administration went ahead with police protection to murder nature and Lakshmipuram Thoppu. Literally snubbing their illiterate protests and by forcefully threatening them the district administration with full armed backup closed the natural estuary too the glee of the businessmen and the politicians who represent them. The fact of the matter is the vested lobby behind the closure of estuary was Itthikkara based brick companies under the garb of agriculture. As Saline waters mixed with the fresh river water during opening of the estuary it affected brick making, which was a thriving business in the Eighties. It’s another matter that none of the said companies is around today, as mud bricks are not used any more in abundance in the construction industry. What more under the garb of modern mass tourism which is the biggest polluter things started moving at a rapid pace to usher in economic benefits to the locals, at least that was how it was sold. The estuary which was dead and buried and shown as estuary in revenue department, reincarnated as a legitimate thriving coconut plantation and the necessary titles accorded to it. This brutal murder of nature’s flood control mechanisms happened in 1986 and the devastating perils after that has been visible for all around.

Conservation Recommendation & Conclusion Priorities for the region

HELP Foundation calls for structural changes in decision making with respect to the approach to developmental issues so as to address a deepening environmental crisis which has generated profound change and great uncertainty. Till recently the entire region has taken for granted the benefits of developmental growth and its economic benefits. But now we have been called to cope with the negative dimensions of GDP lead growth like displacement, land grab, degraded environment, loss of biodiversity, polluted water bodies, illegal mining, modification of natural systems. Economic, Social & Regional events in and around the vicinity of the locality have coalesced together and their adverse impact is now being felt across local communities spread on all sides of the lake, and are left to fend for themselves. There is deficit in local administration which necessitates the need for strong and effective Gramsabhas for impartial decisions based on indigenous knowledge led decision making by the local people. Gramsabhas should be revitalized and reformed so that the local community is part of the decision making and not left to corrupt officials either elected or official. Such an approach to development would bring in rural solutions laced with knowledge of the region. This coupled with the local administration and the backing of the scientific community would bring in the best of developmental solutions completely in harmony with nature.

In addition to the same the world is increasingly faced with unprecedented social and political upheaval in its quest for natural resources. Spiraling food and energy prices and shortage of food and natural resources are introducing fresh instability. Uneven growth and inadequate spread of jobs, denial of basic human rights and improper distribution of the economic benefits are leading to growing intolerance of youths in the local communities. The idea that prescriptions to local issues have to be imposed from outside is fraught with danger. Instead make the local people the custodians of the natural assets in their region. Issues like sand mining & destruction of pristine nature for quick fast buck could be prevented for ever by this approach and people will continue to live in peace and harmony with nature. Tsunami fund led eviction and the subsequent planned grab of coastal land coupled with the costal zonal regulation act are fraught with grave national security issues. At Lakshmipuram Thoppu (Mukkam) near the estuary there is a well orchestrated move ongoing to grab the land from communities that have lived there for generations. These indigenous people dwelling there have not been granted land rights by the subsequent administration. Moreover Paravoor Municipality stepped in to establish control of part of the land splitting the community into two under the influence of tourism businesses under its jurisdiction. This coupled with insensitiveness of the Mayyanad Gramapanchayat has driven the community to despair and they are in the process of being messed up for ever.

Powerful tourism businesses are working over drive to grab a share of the fortune. Once they are evicted into ill-conceived multi layered flats far away from their place of livelihood, the coast is fraught with dangerous costal security implications. One wonders loudly which authority coined the notion of a fishermen living ever happily in a multistoried flat. Such a scenario would facilitate a vessel from sea to slip pass to the mainland through the estuary with ease, when this can be easily thwarted by the sheer presence of the local fishing community. While plans are afoot for securing the coast lines of Mayyanad with costal police stations and armed forces under the garb of modernization and national security, this could be easily achieved at a pittance by making sure the indigenous fishermen community continues to say in their habitat. Environmental degradation is often linked with poverty and has not been highlighted. As with economic growth oriented policies development comes to the fore. Most often projects are cleared without proper study of environmental impact. Seldom has obtainment of Environmental Clearance been a hurdle to business as for the administrative class its just cause for a few illegal bucks. Livelihoods of people who have depended on these resources as their source of income are almost always the causalities. Sustainable development that embraces human rights in particular and incorporating the apt developmental solution in consultation with the Indigenous people and approval of the same in the Gramsabhas is the way forward so that the region and its people wont end up being the casualty.Scientific knowledge alone cannot provide solutions for issues concerning nature and its unique ways.

Gramsabhas and the elected representatives have to fulfill this most important task given the negative effects of globalization and the interests of the business communities. Most often outsiders have little first hand information of the region except return for their investments. This is a classic case of Chatanoor MLA highlighting the issue of farmers in his constituency (Itthikkara) and enforcing a solution in Paravoor Lake at Mukkam which falls under Eravipuram Constituency. These kinds of vested interventions prove how catastrophic it can be to nature, the existence of the triad nexus of corrupt businessmen, politician and the executive. They act in concert to exert their will, subvert all norms to generate black incomes. Environmental wrongs one done are very difficult to have it reversed as its affects the entire lifecycle system of nature and those who depend on it. It more often than not leads to severe devastations. Such one sided flow alterations or exploitation of natural resources for commerce assumes important dimensions in a globalized era. What must be emphasized here is the protection of rights of the traditional communities and making them part of the solutions.

HELP Foundation has carried out this study together with the indigenous community, for the objective of evolving a management plan for sustainable management of the estuary and for the full ecosystem development (restoration) of Paravoor Lake. The shores of the lake and the banks of Ihthikara River are home to important species of rare birds, animals & aquatic wealth. Any decisions made concerning the natural estuary at Lakshmipuram Thoppu, Mayyanad and its sustainable management attains significance as it has to be dictated purely by nature. This is home to not only a significant section of the population who live on its shores but also a large spread of aquatic wealth which adds to the important biodiversity to the lake's environmental habitat. Most natural systems are resilient in nature and if allowed to recover, these water bodies can perform vital ecological functions, whatever the modifications or truncations and support a substantial amount of biodiversity. Native vegetation binds the soil together and prevents erosion. Restoration of the modified flow system will help tremendously in providing habitat for the native species. It also is key to reviving habitats for the endangered mammals which once thrived in the region. Universal assessments indicate that though biodiversity provides for almost all the needs for our living, it has not found its way into the lexicon of the common man yet. It is a resource that is given to us only to be handed over to the next generation, never appreciated and over-utilized. Biological diversity upholds the very survival of humans on earth, and is the basis for development and peace. However, natural resources and biodiversity are exploited to such an extent that resources are lost forever and it’s significantly alters the livelihood of indigenous people and other life forms in nature. Unlike elements of climate change that can be reversed through mitigation and adaptation action, these resources once lost are gone for good.

Below are the sequence of events that need to be done on an urgent basis to restore Paravoor Lake and its environs to former glory.
1. Closure of the temporary estuary which is of permanent nature
2. Opening of the natural estuary at its original location where the mouth of Itthikkara River meets the Mukkam coast at Lakshmipuram Thoppu, Mayyanad
3. Removal of clogged sand at the mouth of the spillway
4. Partial or complete closure of the spillway
5. Dredging of vast stretches of sand islands in the middle of the lake
6. Non mechanized Sand Mining to be encouraged selectively at village level, away from the banks of the lake and completely stop the mechanized illicit sand mining process
7. Address the declining fish stock production through concerted efforts to conserve the fish stock in a sustainable manner and with indigenous community participation
8. Promote ecotourism with better facilities of inland navigation and services in the form of indigenous boats service
9. Developing of marine bio-reserve or fish habitat cum sanctuary and entrust ownership of the same to the indigenous fishing community to bring back the lost species and nurture the lakes health back to normal.
10. Improved shore protection through mangrove afforestation for ecosystem development on the banks of the estuary
11. Revive mangrove forests all along the banks of the Paravoor Lake
12. Identify and phase out the pollution sources
13. Start actions to revive and sustain the otter population.
14. Actions to start Restoration & Protection of the Itthikkara river
15. Formation of Paravur Lake & Itthikkara River Protection Authority with adequate representation for local bodies and indigenous people.
16. Work towards listing this as a Ramsar Site or other similar protection mechanisms as defined by the Ramsar Convention for the conservation and sustainable utilization of wetlands.

17. Built a bridge over the estuary so that the coastal highway can be restored once for all.

TIMELINE

  1. 10th-Oct-2011: HELP Foundation releases a paper titled “Study & Analysis on the degradation of Paravur Lake”
  2. 15th-Nov-2011: Mayyanad Gramapanchayat passes a resolution on the steps to be taken to save the lake based on the above report.
  3. 1st-Jan-2012: HELP Foundation adopts mangroves for sustainable development of coastal ecosystems of Paravur Lake.
  4. 19th-Apr-2013: Paravur Lake and Ithikkara River Protection Council formed and registered.
  5. 6th-May-2013: Kollam Collector P.J. Thomas and Kollam District Administrations Intervention sought.
  6. 12th-June-2013: Major Irrigation Department, Kollam, Intervention sought.
  7. 19th-June-2013: HELP Foundation and Paravur Lake Protection Council are invited for a meeting with Major Irrigation Department, Kollam .
  8. 23rd-July-2013: Additional Chief Secretary, Water Resources Ministry, Kerala's Intervention sought.
  9. 23rd-Aug-2013: HELP Foundation invited to be part of the Biodiversity Management Committee of Mayyanad Gramapanchayat.
  10. 13rd-Sep-2013: HELP Foundation requests Dept of Environmental Sciences, Kerala University to assist HELP Foundation in documenting and studying the issues so as to work together in Wetland Ecosystem Restoration Efforts.
  11. 20th-Sept-2013: Ithikkara Block Panchayat, Kollam, roped in to the activities.
  12. 30th-Oct-2013: Symposium on Restoration of the Paravur Lake-Ithikkara River Ecosystem.
  13. 26th-Dec-2013: Reinstation of Estuary after 32 years by redrawing the maps depiciting the original estuary.
  14. 04th-Feb-2014: Survey, identification and marking of the banks of Ithikkara River.
  15. 07th-May-2014: Centre for Earth Science Studies (CESS), visits HELP Foundations Office.
  16. 07th-June-2014: Launch of “HELP Foundation River Watch” Program for Ithikkara River.
  17. 15th -October-2014: CESSs report on restoration of the estuary made available to HELP Foundation.
  18. 30th -October-2014: HELP Foundation meets with Additional Chief Secretary, Water Resources Ministry, Kerala based on the report made available from CESS and the decision taken to proceed ahead with the Project Plan Preparation.
  19. 07th -November-2014: HELP Foundation meets Major Irrigation, Executive Engineer, Kollam based on the instruction from Additional Chief Secretary, Water Resources Ministry, Kerala for preperation of the DPR with respect to the bridge over the path of the erstwhile estury.
  20. 14th -November-2014: HELP Foundation provides 2000 Mangrove Saplings to Mayyanad Panchayat for planting along the banks of Paravur Lake
  21. 4th -January-2015: HELP Foundation decides to meet local MLA as Major Irrigation Engineers (Jacob Mathai &Alex Varghese) start paying hide and seek as they are delaying the preperation of the DPR which was supposed to be submitted on 22nd November-2014. We lament at the state of the government Engineers who are highly compromised and complicit in it.
  22. 16th -January-2015: HELP Foundation decides to meet Chattanoor MLA as the Eravipuram MLA and the Chattanoor MLA are both needed to take on this corrupt Major Irrigation Heads of Kollam who are aiding a local contract keep posession of the estuary which is Governtment property. Chattanoor MLA spends close to two hours with HELP Foundation to understand the issue and has resolved to take it up soon together with the Eravipuram MLA, so as to save Paravur Lake.
  23. 16th -February-2015: HELP Foundation facilitates a meeting of Fisheries Department with Mayyanad Panchayat members and Fishermen of Paravur Kayal towards conservation of biodiversity by putting an end to destructive fishing using illegal fishing methods.
  24. 08th -October-2015: Paravaur Lake Action Council, Paravur Lake Ithikkara River Protection Councl and HELP Foundation meets Kollam MP Premachandran to discuss ther restoration of the estuary. Outcome was positive he agreed to work towards including the said amount in the state budget.

 

Facebook Link Depicting the activities of HELP Foundation with respect to Paravur Lake