Vembanad: Kerala's Ramsar site


Exploring community-centric wetland conservation and environmental education around the Vembanad-Kol wetlands, with a focus on responsible agriculture, wastewater management, citizen science, and mitigating threats.

Abstracts


Kuttanad, the 'rice bowl' of Kerala, located at the heart of Vembanad wetlands, is a highly productive rice ecosystem, famous for its below mean sea level farming. The indiscriminate use of chemicals as fertilizers and controlling agents over the last few decades has resulted in multifarious ecological and health problems in this Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System (GIAHS). The damage to the environmental resources and disappearance of indigenous knowledge and hence, agriculture can hardly be perceived as sustainable here. This issue needs urgent attention as it directly affects the lives and livelihoods of millions of people who depend on these water resources. In the present scenario, efforts are being made across the world, to work towards sustainable agriculture. Indigenous and traditional agricultural practices, combined with innovative technologies can play a key role in the design of sustainable and eco-friendly agricultural systems, increasing the likelihood that the rural population will accept, develop and maintain innovations and interventions.
In this backdrop, CERC adopted a holistic approach, built upon innovative systemic solutions of eco-friendly farming practices, to reduce the indiscriminate use of hazardous agrochemicals that pollute the agroecosystem. The primary focus was to develop a more sustainable and productive agricultural system and to ensure better livelihoods for farmers, through ecologically and socially responsible land use, conserving ecosystem services. A technology package was developed by the ATREE team after a year-long observation of the vulnerabilities and critical issues faced by the farmers and their environment keeping in view of sustaining soil health and biodiversity. This package included different adaptive measures to minimize the use of critical inputs like seed, fertilizer, and hazardous chemicals. Biocontrol agents and natural antagonists were used for controlling pests and diseases. In addition to this, the Vrikshayurveda and Chittunda method of planting was also demonstrated as methods to minimize the use of agrochemicals. The capacity building, through a series of farm schools, played a key role in building awareness and spreading eco-friendly practices among the farmers. A Group of master farmers was selected and trained to extend the program to more areas in Kuttanad.
The soil test-based lime application helped to maintain the pH at 5 thereby reducing the custom fertilizers to 30%. The adoption of biocontrol methods for pest and disease management achieved a 100% reduction in chemical pesticides and fungicides. The overall practices helped in achieving a good yield with a good net profit with minimal and wise use of inputs which shows the success of the demonstration package followed.

Parvathy Sundar, Priyadarsanan Dharma Rajan


Hoarding amongst people and it's imperative to look for a possible transformation and use for them.This project nurture a new life in these sentimentally attached waste clothes by informing, promoting and encouraging interested communities in providing their pre-owned fabrics, to modifying them to a useful item and return those to the same person who possessed them for a minimal cost. Thus, a general transformation in the attitude is induced in people through an underlying behavioural change. Further, alternative livelihood opportunities for women from selected communities are provided through training in upcycling cloth waste.
Primarily the impact of the project will be visualised in the reduction in post-consumer apparel wastes and their modifications that ensure a sense of belonging and usefulness by the owners. Further, the livelihood enhancement of the women from underprivileged communities is an additional impact. In the seminar, the deliberations will be centred around these initiatives meted out by CERC.

Maneeja Murali, Anu Radhakrishnan, Sreekuttan V N, Priyadarsanan Dharma Rajan


World Environment Day is also a day to encourage people to better understand our environment, remember its importance, and increase interest in nature conservation. Environmental scientists, research students and children all present their closeness to nature and their dedicated attitude towards it in many ways. Intellectual efforts have usually conveyed the need to conserve nature to the general public through publications and scientific explanations. However, conservation efforts through tree plantings, drawing pictures, and singing songs are a fortiori enjoyable than textual messages. These methods are exceedingly promising for students due to their simplicity in the knowledge they have acquired through social media, books, and teachers. In the wake of the Covid epidemic, our children miss out on school, good friendships and a platform for social interactions. This environment day convinces us that nature is becoming the best school for our children. Students of Jalapaadom schools, as part of this year's Environment Day celebrations, produced a beautiful set of posters and videos conveying their love and care for mother nature. Here we present a collated slideshow depicting their effort.


Threat Based Conservation Intervention for Sustainability in Vembanad Socio-Ecological System in the Times of Climate Change is a project designed to addresssome of the significant threats of Vembanad ecosystem. The project initiated specific themes for intervention (i) lake pollution, (ii) lake reclamation, (iii) invasive species, (iv) unsustainable resource use, (v) climate change and (livelihood enhancement). Activity under the theme of climate change is to develop a model wetland village plan. Muhamma, a wetland Panchayat of Alappuzha district in Kerala, was chosen for the same. The study is primarily divided into two sections; the former explains the theoretical and conceptual outline of the project approach, and the latter discusses the field-based surveys, activities and appraisals in the study area.
Community-based conservation remains problematic because of its high dependence on centralised bureaucratic organisations for planning and implementation. Since the first proposal of the theme introduces innovative modus operandi for climate change adaptations and sustainability by developing a model, the village adoption program particularly structured a deliberative democratic and participatory approach for the community. It is defined to ensure transparency, effective, accountable and sustainable interventions.
In the initial phase of the project, operational postulates were identified. The activities were classified, and emphasis is placed on strengthening diverse local livelihoods through more decentralisation and local control of conservation and natural resource management, imparting civil society organisations, government institutions, and private sectors.
In the seminar, the discussion will be constructed encompassing the theoretical constructs that structured the project, the planning, identification of activities and the way forward.


Threat Based Conservation Intervention for Sustainability in Vembanad Socio-Ecological System in the Times of Climate Change is a project designed to addresssome of the significant threats of Vembanad ecosystem. The project initiated specific themes for intervention (i) lake pollution, (ii) lake reclamation, (iii) invasive species, (iv) unsustainable resource use, (v) climate change and (livelihood enhancement). Activity under the theme of climate change is to develop a model wetland village plan. Muhamma, a wetland Panchayat of Alappuzha district in Kerala, was chosen for the same. The study is primarily divided into two sections; the former explains the theoretical and conceptual outline of the project approach, and the latter discusses the field-based surveys, activities and appraisals in the study area.
Community-based conservation remains problematic because of its high dependence on centralised bureaucratic organisations for planning and implementation. Since the first proposal of the theme introduces innovative modus operandi for climate change adaptations and sustainability by developing a model, the village adoption program particularly structured a deliberative democratic and participatory approach for the community. It is defined to ensure transparency, effective, accountable and sustainable interventions.
In the initial phase of the project, operational postulates were identified. The activities were classified, and emphasis is placed on strengthening diverse local livelihoods through more decentralisation and local control of conservation and natural resource management, imparting civil society organisations, government institutions, and private sectors.
In the seminar, the discussion will be constructed encompassing the theoretical constructs that structured the project, the planning, identification of activities and the way forward.

Maneeja Murali, Anu Radhakrishnan, Priyadarsanan Dharma Rajan


As part of educating students on local biodiversity, ATREE-CERC, in association with India Biodiversity Portal (IBP), organized a program titled “Kerala Bioblitz” .The main objective of the program is to identify and document the backyard biodiversity and provide the students an opportunity to learn about the life around the homesteads. A mobile application called the Kerala Bioblitz was prepared and was made available in the google playstore. The observations were uploaded on the IBP platform for expert identification. We have also organized a webinar series for students on topics like photography, documentation, data analysis, biology and systematic of various taxa etc. The feedback from the students reveals that during the lock down period the programme helped them to reduce their mental stress associated with the Covid-19 pandemic and their time was effectively engaged with photography, biodiversity documentation and it also generates a curiosity in students to document more unique observations from their surroundings. Students and teachers from 35 colleges are participating in this programme. The first phase of Kerala BioBlitz from September 2020 to January 2021 recorded around 14k observations and 2452 Taxa from all over Kerala.
Keywords: Biodiversity, Citizen, IBP, Webinars, biodiversity register book, Covid pandemic

Programme Officer, ATREE-CERC, Alappuzha


The aquatic weed Eichhornia crassipes commonly known as Water hyacinth is one of the most noxious water weeds that has affected all the livelihood activities like agriculture, fishing, tourism and inland navigation in Vembanad estuarine system. The tropical climate along with nutrient overload into the system from the paddy growing areas helps the weed to flourish and invade the system. Its rapid proliferation and adaptability make it difficult to control. “Eradication through utilization” is a more sensible way to deal with this invasive (Gopika, G & Kumar V, Anoop & Prabhu, G.. (2018). Despite the harmful effect it causes, when looked at from a resource angle, it has got immense potential as raw material for many industries including wastewater treatment, Biogas production, Organic fertilizer etc. (Sudhakar, K. Ananthakrishnan, R. and Goyal (2013). Water hyacinth can be an ideal substitute for paper making and can reduce dependence on trees.
ATREE-CERC, while addressing the threats to Vembanad, took initiatives to resolve this issue by making use of its resource potential to convert water hyacinth into useful products. A technique for making handmade paper using water hyacinth was developed. To improve the quality, waste paper and waste cloths were added to water hyacinth pulp. They produced good-quality papers which can be used for both writing and printing. The production and quality of the paper can be greatly improved through mechanization in grinding, pressing, calendaring, etc. Along with solving issues related to water hyacinth infestation, this initiative can also offer more livelihood opportunities to the traditional stakeholders of the wetland.