ISRO, India’s space giant, has often been involved in environmentally-friendly causes. In March 2017, ISRO helped the Karnataka Lake Conservation and Development Authority search for undiscovered lakes. You can learn more about the initiative here.
In 2016, it used technology to detect an approaching cyclone, thus aiding timely evacuation. Learn how ISRO evacuated lakhs of people here.
This time, via Antrix Corporation Limited, which is its commercial arm, ISRO has inked a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE) for integrated conservation and management of Kerala’s pride—the Vembanad Lake.
ATREE was established in 1996, to help curtail the rapid degradation of India’s biological resources and natural ecosystems.
Antrix is directly involved with the project, and will fund the 3-year initiative, which falls under the umbrella of continuing conservation efforts by local people and fishers under CSR. The National Remote Sensing Agency (NRSA) of ISRO, will be the technical support backbone, via Bhuvan, its portal.
The Vembanad wetland is a designated Ramsar site—a wetland site of international importance under the Ramsar Convention, which is an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands.
The wetland covers an area of over 2033.02 square kilometres and is India’s largest wetland. Fed by ten rivers, it is used for rice cultivation, plantation crops, housing, tourist resorts and industries, but is in trouble.
In 2016, a report in the Hindu mentioned that the lake might altogether vanish in 50 years, while in 2017, a report in the News Minute stated that the lake is one of the most polluted water bodies in the world. The article mentioned that microplastics were present in all sediment samples collected from the lake.
ISRO’s involvement thus comes at a timely moment, when the lake is seemingly choking. ATREE’s senior fellow, Dr Priyadarshan Dharma Rajan, said core issues like water pollution, lake reclamation, invasive species, unsustainable resource use, and climate change would be tackled. The agenda is to create a comprehensive and integrated ecosystem, with sustainable conservation and resource management.
The new initiative will bolster the efforts of the Community Environmental Resource Centre, whose aim is capacity building in governance and the appropriate use of wetland biodiversity. Building multi-sector and multi-stakeholder partnerships at the local level, influencing decision making, increasing coordination between stakeholders and strengthening their capacity, is all on the agenda.
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The Vembanad wetland is a vital part of the ecosystem of Kerala and India. Perhaps, ISRO has stepped in at a critical time, to help save the lake from degradation due to human intervention.
Edited by Gayatri Mishra.