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Rehabilitation of Vibrio-infested waters of Lake Vembanad, funded under the India-UK Water Quality programme (REVIVAL)

A small boat on a lake

Completed project

Project start: October 2017  |  Project end: October 2020
Funder: NERC
Principal Investigator: Dr Shubha Sathyendranath
Other participants from PML: Dr Daniel Clewley, Dr Gemma Kulk, Dr Marie-Fanny Racault, Dr Robert Brewin, Dr Victor Martinez-Vicente, Professor Trevor Platt FRS

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 1.6 million people, many of whom depend on the waters for their livelihoods.  The lake provides essential income to the inhabitants of the area through tourism, cottage industries, agriculture and fisheries.

The waters, however, are troubled. The beautiful lake is heavily polluted and contains Vibrio bacteria associated with diseases such as cholera. Vectors related to malaria, dengue and chikungunya are also present. The communities living beside Vembanad do not always have access to safe drinking water.

The new project, REVIVAL - Rehabilitation of Vibrio-infested waters of Lake Vembanad, funded under the India-UK Water Quality Initiative of the 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, with modelling being used to formulate effective plans to minimise risk to the local population.

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. 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. A simple, but effective tool, the Mini Secchi Disc1, has been developed under this project, to monitor water clarity.

1The Mini-secchi disk manual for REVIVAL can be found here