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Location India, Kerala
Central coordinates 76o 23.50' East  9o 36.00' North
IBA criteria A4i, A4iii
Area 79,400 ha
Year of IBA assessment 2004

Bombay Natural History Society

Site description Vembanad, one of the declared Ramsar site, is a coastal lagoon (Nameer 1993). It has a single, relatively narrow opening to the sea and must have been formed by the detritus dumped by six perennial rivers forming a narrow sand bar in the sea further west of the seashore. These six rivers (Achankoil, Pamba, Manimala, Meenachil, Moovatupuzha and part of Periyar) originating in the Western Ghats, with an annual rainfall of 4,000 to 5,000 mm and with extremely steep gradients in the channel, bring down considerable quantum of detritus. So over a period of time the sand bar in the coastal sea consolidated and stretched from near Kayamkulam in the south to Kochi in the north. The only mouth of the enclosed shallow water body is at Kochi. The lagoon thus formed is called the Vembanad backwater. In addition, during the rainy season, from July to October, the surplus discharge extends the waterbody by an additional 100-150 sq. km. Vembanad extends north-south, parallel to the shoreline, and is widest at its southern extremity, forming a bowl located about 3 m below msl. During summer, when the freshwater discharge in the rivers is reduced, water in the 100-150 sq. km flooded area recedes. Seawater flows inland through the Kochi mouth and gradually moves inland. By February-March, salinity reaches all parts of Vembanad. However, the salinity has a gradient with the highest levels near the northern sea mouth, gradually reducing southwards. All the six rivers emptying into the backwaters form braided channels, which fuse and split repeatedly, forming a delta-like configuration, which gets flooded during the rains. As Vembanad has been under human occupation for a long time, the natural vegetation has all but disappeared, except in the sacred groves of temples. A tiny portion of the once extensive Lowland Wet Evergreen Forest survives in a few sacred groves. Detailed literature on the vegetation of Vembanad Lake is not available to us. Sreekumar (2002) lists six species of mangrove (Avicennia officinalis, Bruguiera gymnorrhiza, Rhizophora apiculata, R. mucronata, Sonneratia cascolaris and Kandelia candel), 17 species of marshy and mangrove associates, eight nonmangroves, 15 hydrophytes, 18 weeds and garden escapes, and 12 species of plants under cultivation. In Pathirammal area of the lake, the endangered and endemic plant Aponogeton appendiculatus is seen (Red Data Book of Indian Plants, Botanical Survey of India, p. 31).

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Garganey Spatula querquedula 2004  present  A4i  Least Concern 
Little Cormorant Microcarbo niger 2004  present  A4i  Least Concern 
Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybrida 2004  present  A4i  Least Concern 
A4iii Species group - waterbirds unknown  2004  20,000 individuals  unknown  A4iii   

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Vembanad-Kol Wetland Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar) 151,250 unknown 0  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Forest   -
Grassland   -
Wetlands (inland)   -
Coastline   -

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
agriculture -
Notes: Agriculture
tourism/recreation -
Notes: Ecotourism and recreation

Acknowledgements Key contributors: P. O. Nameer and B. Sreekumar.


Nameer, P. O. (1993) Birds of Vembanad Lake - A survey report.Nature Education Society, Trichur (NEST) and Vembanad Nature Club, Muhamma, in collaboration with Kerala Forest Department.

Sreekumar, B. (2001) Vembanad Water Bird Count 2001. Department ofForests and Wildlife, Government of Kerala, and Kottayam Nature Society. Pp. 31.

Sreekumar, B. (2002) Vembanad Water Bird Count 2001. Department of Forests and Wildlife, Government of Kerala, and Kottayam Nature Society. Pp. 44.

Wetlands International (2002) Waterbirds Population Estimates: Third Edition. Wetlands International Global Series No. 12. Wageningen, The Netherlands.

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2014) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Vembanad Lake. Downloaded from on 31/10/2014

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