PML will co-lead a project with the CSIR-National Institute of Oceanography, India, that aims to revive the waters of Vembanad.
Lake Vembanad is the largest body of water in Kerala, India, stretching almost 100km in length and spanning an area of over 2000km2. Its shores are home to 1.6m people, many of whom depend on the waters for their livelihoods, and it provides essential income to the area through tourism.
The waters, however, are troubled. The beautiful lake is heavily polluted and rife with debilitating and sometimes deadly diseases – cholera, malaria, dengue, chikunguya and Zika virus are all present. The communities living beside Vembanad are not always able to access water safe to drink or bathe in.
The new project, REVIVAL - Rehabilitation of Vibrio-infested waters of Lake Vembanad, funded under the India-UK Water Quality programme, Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) in partnership with India’s Department of Science and Technology (DST), will enable scientists to study and address water quality in the highly-polluted lake.
Scientists from the UK and India are now working together to find a solution to the pollution. The team will study the links between lake organisms and the diseases, the environmental conditions that allow pathogens to survive and spread, how their abundance changes by season, and how they can infect the communities living on the lake’s shores. A range of techniques will be employed, with data collected from the field, by instruments on satellites in Earth’s orbit, and via miniature drones that will enable recordings even in dangerous, inaccessible areas, before modelling will be used to help understand the observations and formulate effective plans.
Citizen science will also have a role to play, allowing local communities to get involved by contributing their own monitoring of the water quality using inexpensive equipment. In addition to their help, the citizen scientists will be informed on how their work will aid understanding the dynamics of the lake’s waters and contribute to rehabilitation efforts.
“The REVIVAL project will be vital in restoring Lake Vembanad and providing a solid foundation for improving the health and welfare of the Kerala region,” said PML’s project leader Dr Shubha Sathyendranath. “PML will provide expertise in bringing together earth observation and computer modelling to conduct the project, whereas India will take the lead in making field measurements, fisheries and microbiological studies. Technology exchange is the cornerstone of the project. The beneficiaries of REVIVAL will be a broad and diverse group including the community around the lake whose health is at risk from the pathogens; the fisheries and agriculture sectors of Lake Vembanad; and the tourist industry that relies on the beauty, biodiversity and ecosystem health of the area. The potential exists of extending our findings to help other countries that live under the threat of these diseases.”