Vembanad Lake

Vembanad Lake (Vembanad Kayal or Vembanad Kol) is India's longest lake, and is the largest lake in the state of Kerala. It is also one of the largest lakes in India

Geography and Hydrography

The Vembanad wetland system covers an area of over 1512 km².  The lake is bordered by Alappuzha, Kottayam, and Ernakulam  districts. It lies at sea level, and is separated from the Arabian Sea by a narrow barrier island. Canals link the lake to other coastal lakes to the north and south. Several rivers flow into the lake, including the Achenkovil, Manimala, Meenachil, Muvattupuzha, Pamba  and Periyar. The lake surrounds the islands of Pathiramanal, Perumbalam  and Pallippuram. The Vembanad Lake is approximately 14 kilometres wide at its widest point.

A unique characteristic of the lake is the location of the Thanneermukkom salt water barrier. The Thanneermukkom salt water barrier was constructed as a part of the Kuttanad Development Scheme to prevent tidal action and intrusion of salt water into the Kuttanad low-lands. It is the largest mud regulator in India. This barrier essentially divides the lake into two parts - one with brackish water perennially and the other half with fresh water fed by the rivers draining in to the lake. This barrier has helped the farmers in Kuttanad - where farming is done below sea level. It has however also created ecological problems, primarily, the rampant propagation of the Water Hyacinth in fresh water.

Cities

The port of Kochi (Cochin) is located at the lake's outlet to the Arabian Sea. In Cochin, the stretch from Kochi Azhi to Munambam Azhi, the serene backwaters are popularly known as Veeranpuzha. It is the northern extension of Vembanad Lake. The town of Alappuzha (also known as Allepey),sometimes called the "Venice of the East" for its large network of canals that meander through the town - is sandwiched between the lake and the Arabian sea. The Vallam Kali (the Snake Boat Race) held every year in August is a major attraction. The race is held in an extension of the Vembanad lake called the "Punnamada Kayal" Over 1.6 million people live on the banks of the Vembanad lake and are directly or indirectly dependent on it for their livelihoods.

Tourism

Vembanad Lake is at the heart of Kerala Backwaters tourism with hundreds of kettuvallams crisscrossing it and numerous resorts nestling on its banks. The Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary is located on the east coast of the lake. The lake is famous for its scenic beauty and has become a major tourist attraction.

Ecological Importance

Vembanad Kol Wetland was included in the list of wetlands of international importance, as defined by the Ramsar Convention for the conservation and sustainable utilization of wetlands. It is home to more than 20,000 waterfowls in India - the third largest such population in India. It is also an ideal habitat for shrimps.