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Vellayani or Vellayani kayal as known in local language is one of the three rain-fed freshwater lakes in Kerala, the other two being Sasthamcotta lake in Kollam and Pookkode lake in Wayanad. Vellayani lake, is the largest fresh water lake in Thiruvananthapuram district, of Kerala.  The lake is located about 7 km away from Kovalam. The lake water is extensively used for drinking and irrigational purposes. The lake is under the threat of pollution, encroachment and sand mining. It has been observed that the area of the lake, which was 750 ha in 1926, had been reduced to 397.5 ha by 2005. The lake was a tourist resort during the erstwhile Travancore era. Till 1953, it was used only to grow lotus flowers for the Sri Padmanabha Swamy temple. The `Grow more Food' programme launched by the Government in the early 1950s had led to the reclamation of vast areas for cultivation. It is a common practice to dewater the lake twice annually for paddy cultivation by the farmers. Ironically, the five panchayats surrounding the lake- Thiruvallam, Kalliyoor, Venganoor, Nemom and Kovalam- go dry during summer forcing the Government to spend a huge sum to reach water in mobile tankers. According to the Head of the Resource Analysis Division at the Centre for Earth Science Studies, K. Soman, "Having been part of the lake, the fields retain a lower layer of sand caused by sedimentation. Removal of this layer is bound to affect the water table in the region. The resultant decrease in hydraulic pressure will also lead to salinity intrusion beyond the spillway."  An Environment Impact Assessment by the CESS (2003) had pointed out that removal of laterite soil from the hills in the neighboring Thiruvallam drastically changes not only the `wetland landscape' but also its ecology and habitat characteristics.

In 2004, the state government officially brought a proposal to use a part of the lake for paddy cultivation. The local residents protested against this. The State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) intervened to stop this agitation. In the year 2005, the Commission stayed this move of the state. They took this decision after a detailed study by the Faculty of Agriculture, College of Agriculture, Vellayani. The study had warned that dewatering the lake for cultivation would endanger the reservoir and threaten several drinking water projects servicing the neighboring panchayats. The study report recommended a revenue survey to demarcate the reservoir area and identify the encroachments. It called for steps to evict all illegal occupations, fence the entire boundary of the lake and deploy security guards. The report suggested that the water body should be handed over to the Public Health Engineering Department for preservation and maintenance. Use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides and steps to check pollution of the waters by solid waste and sewerage should be stopped and there should be controlled fish farming in the lake to improve the water quality, said the report. Another report was also submitted to the Commission by the Water Resources Department, which warned that the reclamation of the rain-fed lake would reduce its recharge capacity and impact on the hydrological system.

In 2006, the SHRC ordered the state to withdraw the order relating to paddy cultivation in the land around the Vellayani Lake. The state government was ordered to take over the private lands around the lake after paying the compensation to the landholders. The Commission has also directed the state government to work with the Ministry of Environment and Forests to take steps to protect the lake as a source of drinking water. The state was also directed to form a committee headed by the District Collector, Thiruvananthapuram, comprising officials from the Revenue Department, the Kerala Water Authority and the police for protecting the lake. It was suggested that the committee should review its functioning two times a year. Anti-pollution signboards should be placed around the lake and fish farming should be encouraged in a controlled manner, the order said.

In 2008, students of the Mannam Memorial Residential Higher Secondary School, Neeramankara, submitted a report on their study on conservation of Vellayani Lake to Water Resources Minister. According to their project report, the analysis of water samples from the lake, conducted at the Government Analyst’s Lab, indicated a high content of iron, ammonia and E-coli bacteria. The students researched out that an open drain was directly discharging waste into the lake near Bund Road. The lake was also polluted by runoff from agricultural fields and nearby areas. The students observed that the Fish culture by the Fisheries Department had also affected the natural biota of the lake causing pollution. Another factor degrading the lake was constructional aspects and development works in the name of tourism. Sand mining was also posing a threat of decrease of groundwater recharge and increase of turbidity by intervening with the natural filtering system, the report said. In December last year, the state Revenue Minister declared that the government had initiated moves to carry out a comprehensive survey of the Vellayani lake. He claimed that the government was taking all the necessary steps to preserve the lake’s ecology.

In the beginning of 2009, the College of Agriculture, Vellayani, had proposed the constitution of an ecosystem development authority, comprising representatives of local people to manage and conserve the Vellayani freshwater lake. This was done after the survey by the Social Science division of the college at the end of last year. The report identified sand mining as the biggest threat to the lake. The college suggested organic farming at the vicinity of the lake and also recommended eco tourism for the lake.


K. V. Jayachandran, K.V. and Joseph, N.I. 2007.  Meteorological and Hydrographical Features of Vellayani Lake, Kerala, India International review of hydrobiology, Volume 73 Issue 1, Pages 113 – 121.

September 2009: CWRDM published a report on Pookot, Vembanad,
Sasthamkotta and Vellayani lakes. According to the study, Pookot lake in
Wayanad, Vembanad lake in Alappuzha, Sasthamkotta lake in Kollam and
Vellayani lake in Thiruvananthapuram were polluted with bacteria from
various sources.

February 2010: The Chief Minister of Kerala was requested by the Save Vellayani Forum to to get the Vellayani lake included in the National Lake Conservation Plan (NLCP). A demand to get the lake declared as a Ramsar site was also made the forum.


Prof. C. Sundaresan (Dean) and
Dr. S. Mothilal Nehru (Associate Director-Extension)
College of Agriculture, Vellayani P.O.,
Thiruvananthapuram- 695 522
Phone: 0471-2381002, 2381915

Ms. Jayashree
Head, Eco club
Mannam Memorial Residential Higher Secondary School

Government Department

Centre For Water Resources Development And Management
Kunnamangalam, Kozhikode-673 571, Kerala, India
Tel: +91 495 2357151, 2351803, 2351804
Fax: +91 495 2351808

Centre For Earth Science Studies
Post Box No.7250,
Akkulam, Thiruvananthapuram - 695 031
Contact person: Dr. K. Soman, Head,
Head of the Resource Analysis Division
Phone: +91-471-2442451 (O) +91-471-2374873 (R)
Fax: 2442280