Threatened Lake of the Year 2010: Pulicat Lake in India

India’s second largest lake faces ecological collapse

Serious environmental impacts destroy the livelihood of 50,000 fishermen as well as hundreds of thousands of people at the Indian Lake Pulicat. The once species-rich fishing grounds and the ecologically important mangrove forests in the lagoon north of the city of Chennai have reached an alarming dimension.

 

Hundreds of thousands of people are affected by the consequences of deforestation and pollution at the second largest brackish water lagoon in India. Over-exploitation, mismanagement as well as improperly treated industrial effluents (containing heavy metals) from more than 25 industries coming from the nearby megacity Chennai deteriorate the water quality dramatically. This is not only affecting the lake but also the 50,000 fishermen and hundred of thousands Indians, whose livelihood and food resource depend on the lake. In former times the artisanal fishery at Lake Pulicat counted 30,000 fishermen. Due to repeated agricultural mistakes and lack of jobs thousands of farmers and day labourers living in the lake region started fishing in the lake, particularly after the Tsunami in 2004. Prawn farms and an increasing population put additional pressure on the lake’s ecosystem. Overuse of the natural resources and shortage of clean drinking water are inevitable consequences.

 

Global Nature Fund (GNF) together with the Indian environmental organisation Centre for Research on new International Economic Order (CReNIEO) support the restoration of the species-rich mangrove forests. The sheltered water zones between the dense roots provide ideal conditions for the larvae of numerous fish species. As a result the species diversity increases and fishing remains an assured source of income for the local population. In a current joint project of both organisations 25,000 mangrove plants are grown within two years in the lake region. Therefore, different mangrove species from the South of Chennai are being used. Further, the insufficient water management must be improved by installing pit drainages and green filter water treatment systems. In order to involve the local population in this process, the project implies environmental education activities that mainly address women. The women learn methods to grow and plant mangroves which they then put into practise. 

 

Background

Since 2004, on the Worlds Wetlands Day (2nd February) GNF nominates the “Threatened Lake of the Year” to call attention to a threatened lake and help solving environmental problems. The lagoon is an important habitat for 160 different fish species and more than 110 varieties of terrestrial and aquatic birds and small mammals and reptiles. Up to 15,000 flamingoes visit the lake on their annual migration route. Pulicat Lake is member of the international network Living Lakes.

 Fishermen at the Pulicat Lagoon
 Tree nursery at the Pulicat Lagoon
 Employee of the tree nursery