A call to protect the Vembanad Kole ecosystem with the support of local communities

Speakers at the interactive session between researchers and farmers emphasized the need for concerted action by local communities to preserve the Vembanad Kole ecosystem.  Badlands have been considered as rice production systems in recent years and efforts have been made to maximize yield. However unscientific management practices have led to deterioration of soil health due to high acidity, nutrient imbalances, and micronutrient deficiencies. The burden of chemical pesticides on the ecosystem is still being assessed, said P Indira Devi,  Emeritus Professor, ICAR, Kerala Agricultural University.  In addition, invasive species of aquatic plants such as water hyacinth,  locally known as the pink flower, pose a serious threat to the health of the ecosystem. Former Agriculture Minister VS Sunil Kumar emphasized the need for a coordinated institutional mechanism to manage the Kole ecosystem. He also published the book  Kolepatangal. History and Science edited by Indira Devi and published by Kerala Sastra Sahitya Parishad.   

According to Indira Devi, wetlands are the third most productive ecosystems and are valuable sinks and transformers of many chemical, biological, and genetic materials. These ecosystems are considered the “kidneys of the earth” for natural purification mechanisms through biogeochemical cycles. Wetlands have been reported to prevent flooding, trap sediment, bind nutrients, release water, recharge groundwater, protect coastlines, reduce pollution, and regulate biogeochemical cycles. Rice cultivation is one of the methods to ensure protection, as it also fulfills the rice requirements set by the state. Located in Thrissur and Malappuram districts, Kole lands are one of the largest and most important wetlands in Kerala with an area of ​​13,632 hectares. It is part of the Vembanad Kole wetland, which was declared a Ramsar site in 2002. Referring to the  2021 study, he said the total ecosystem service value of the Kole wetlands is estimated to be at least ₹ 390.53 per year. 

Flood management was identified as the most important task. In addition, it is emphasized that the problems related to Kole lands do not only affect farmers but the whole society. This is more of an environmental problem than a manufacturing problem. The need of the hour is an ecosystem approach to management. The current arrangement with officials from different departments often fails to visualize wetland ecosystem services. Although the United Nations considers this decade the decade of ecosystem restoration,  half a decade after the Ramsar Convention is better late than never.

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