The Vembanad Lake, that is spread over two thousand thirty three square kilometres is the longest lake in India and is the largest lake that can be found in Kochi. The Vembanad Lake is known by different names in different parts of the state that it traverses through. It is known as the Kochi Lake in Kerala and the Punnamada Lake in the Kuttanad region.
The annual Nehru trophy boat race is held in the Punnamada Lake in Kuttanad. This boat race or “vallamkalli” as it’s called is one of the most celebrated sporting events in Kerala and is celebrated on the second Saturday every August. These boats that are over thirty to sixty meters in length compete against one another to win the race. This is the only sport where there are over a hundred participants belonging to one team. Millions of tourists come from all over the world to see this fascinating boat race. It’s a celebration in itself.
The Vembanad Lake in Kochi surrounds several small islands there. The Kochi port is built on this lake around the Willingdon Island and Vallarparam Island. The Vembanad Lake acts as a border to Alapuzha, Kottayam and Ernakulam districts. The lake is found to be nearly fourteen kilometres wide in its widest point. The Vembanad Lake is supplied water by ten different rivers. Six of these rivers are major water resources of Kerala. They are Achenkovil, Manimala, Meenachil, Muvattupuzha, Pamba and Periyar rivers.
Vembanad Lake is supposedly one of the most scenic lakes in the country and is thronged by millions of tourists. Kumarakom tourist village situated on the banks of Kumarakom is considered as one of the important hot spots in town. A unique Thaneermukom water barricade has been built towards the narrower region of the Vembanad Lake to prevent high tidal waves and mixing of salt water with the lowlands of Kuttanad. This barrier is nearly one thousand two hundred and fifty two metres long. This barrier thus divides the lake into two, one that is salty water and the other fresh water that is fed by the rivers. This has helped the locals in the area to grow different crops all through the year. One major disadvantage is that the construction of this barricade prevents prawns and other fishes to drift upstream.
More than a million people living in on the banks of this lake are directly or indirectly dependent on it for their livelihood. The Kumarakom bird sanctuary located on the east coast of the lake is another major tourist attraction spot. It is home to more than twenty thousand waterfowl which is the third largest population of waterfowls found in India.
Fishing can also be done at the Vembanad lake. You can accompany the locals on this region on a fishing expedition. Fishing in this lake is done using the traditional fishing nets and is also usually done at night. This is a wonderful experience for an adventure seeker. Many houseboats are also available for rent here. You may choose to spend the night or return the same evening. Fully furnished houseboats powered by solar panels and diesel engines give you all the comfort you need.
The lake has many estuaries, lagoons and canals and they can all be accessed by water transport. Almost all major towns and villages have been connected by the inland water transport..
The Vembanad Lake is currently facing ecological crisis. Almost thirty seven percent of the original area has been lost in land reclamation and has endangered the aquatic life in this lake. Many ecological wastes is also being dumped into this water. Hence the dissolved oxygen level in the water has decreased a great deal. The Government of India has selected the Vembanad wetland to be a part of the National Wetland Conservation Programme.
The nearest railway station is the Kottayam railway station which is located at a distance of thirteen kilometres. The nearest airport is the Cochin International Airport which is located at a distance of about sixty three kilometres.