State of Environment Report

The Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India has launched a scheme during the 10th Five Year Plan to assist state governments to bring out on a regular basis a status report on the environment of the respective states. The report will enable the state governments for policy/strategy formulation, informed decision making and review. Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India provided the necessary financial assistance through The Energy Resources Institute (TERI), New Delhi to the Kerala State Council for Science, Technology and Environment (KSCSTE). It is for the first time that such a project has been taken up for the preparation of a comprehensive State of Environment Report (SoER) for Kerala.

The DPSIR framework (D= driving forces of environmental change, p= pressures on the environment, S= state of the environment, I= impacts and R= response), which is based on cause-effect relationship between interacting components of the social, economic and environmental systems has been adopted for the preparation of the report. The first report will contain topics involving expertise in the different fields. The topics identified are: (a) Climate changes, (b) Water Resources, (c) Marine and Coastal Environment, (d) Nature and Biodiversity, (e) Air Quality and Noise Levels, (f) Solid, Hazardous and Biomedical Wastes.

In the preparation of the report, a balance has been struck to arrive at the requisite information, both qualitative and quantitative on the respective topics. A summary of the report pertaining to the topics dealt with is given here.

1. Climate Changes: The entire state of Kerala is classified as one meteorological subdivision for climatological studies. The state experiences humid and tropical monsoon climate, with seasonal heavy rainfall, followed by hot summer. The month of March is the hottest, with a mean maximum temperature of about 330C. The total annual rainfall varies from 3600 mm in the northern part of the State to about 1800 mm in the south. The South-West monsoon (June – October) is the principal rainy season, when the state receives about 70% of its annual rainfall. Kozhikode district receives maximum amount of rainfall in the state. Maximum rainfall is in June and July, accounting individually to about 23% of annual rainfall.

The population of Kerala was 13.5 million during 1951, which rose to 32 million by 2001. The consumption of the fossil fuel is increasing with population and per capita consumption. Due to the pressure of population, forest areas are under threat which lead to higher concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Similarly, coconut husk retting which is a major activity in the coastal areas of the state generates methane (second important green house gas) along with the hydrogen sulphide. Fluxes from wetlands are influenced by human activities like aquaculture, discharge of sewage and domestic wastes. On an average, nearly 7.5 million households in Kerala use 37.5 million kg of firewood. The total consumption of all petroleum products during 2003-04 in Kerala was 3,087,589 tons. Methane emission from various sources when converted to equivalent CO2 in terms of global warming potential accounts for about 16% and Nitrous Oxide contributes another 2%. Together, they contribute more than 93% of the warming potential of the green house gas emissions from Kerala. The study of the average annual mean maximum and minimum temperatures in Kerala from 1961 to 2003 confirms the raising trend of maximum, minimum and average temperatures of the order of respectively 0.80C, 0.20C and 0.50C. The climatic changes will take place not only due to the emission of green house gases but also due to the significant contribution from population increase and also due to the changes in land use pattern. However, climate change being a global phenomenon, the environmental impact of such activities with the state as bound to be minimal.

2. Water Resources: Apart from the copious rainfall compared to the national average, the State has 44 rivers in which 41 flow through the State with an annual yield of 70300 Mm3 in which the utilizable yield is 42000 Mm3, only 60% of the annual yield. Kerala has brought out a State Water Policy in 1992 for effective management of water resources. The state has ten completed major/medium irrigation projects and the total irrigation capacity of the state is about 4.5 ha including other sources like, lift, tanks, ponds, wells etc. The projected water requirement for irrigation by the year 2021 AD is about 2890 Mm3 for paddy as well as 50% of the future garden land crops. The total identified hydro power potential for Kerala is about 5000 MW with a line storage capacity of 3536 Mm3. The projected water requirement by the year 2021 in the industrial sector is 4270 Mm3. The present drinking water demand is at 645 million litres / day and the annual domestic requirement is at 3230 Mm3. Thus there exists a wide gap between supply and demand. The estimated groundwater balance is about 5590 Mm3. Dug wells are the major extraction structures with a density of 200 wells per square km. In spite of the above, Kerala has one of the lowest percapita fresh water availability states in India. Although the Aruvikkara and Peppara reservoirs were built for drinking water supply alone, only Malampuzha and Peechi irrigation projects have drinking water component. For urban water supply, there are 54 schemes in operation covering 60.23 lakh population in 2000. It is estimated that 17.2% of the villages in Kerala do not get any benefit of protected water supply and 69% is only partially covered. Apart from the above, Kerala has 995 tanks and ponds having more than 15000 Mm3 summer storage.

As per the national norms, Kerala does not have any single major river and has only four medium rivers, the combined discharge of which is less than half of that river Krishna. The remaining 40 rivers are only minor ones and the combined discharge is only about one – third that of Godavari. Monsoon flows contribute to almost 90% of the annual yield, leaving only about 10% during the lean flow period. The major environment problems in the state are associated with water resources are flood, drought, land slides, salinity intrusion, water logging and pollution. The hydrologic modification of wetlands and over exploitation of groundwater also pose challenges in many part of the state. The major water quality problem associated with rivers and open wells is bacteriological pollution. The dumping of solid waste, bathing and discharge of effluents also create problems. Low pH, high iron etc., are common in well waters in the laterite covered midland areas. High concentrations of fluoride over the permissible levels have been reported from certain parts of Palakkad and Alleppey districts. The salinity level is frequently high in the coastal belt.

3. Marine and Coastal Environment: The coastal area is about 16.4% of the state’s total area, extending over a length of 580 km. The forty one west flowing rivers of Kerala carry nearly 45,060 Mm3of water per year into the sea. There are about 27 estuaries and 7 lagoons or kayals. Kerala is well known for the occurrence of mud banks which is a unique phenomenon. Almost 30% of the total population live in the coastal area. Besides, many industries are situated in the coastal stretches. The population is the most prominent driving force which exert pressure on the marine and coastal environment. The average marine fish production from Kerala is about 25% of India. A sizeable area in the coastal belt is under urban administration. About 300 medium and large scale and about 2000 small scale industries are discharging effluent directly into marine or fresh water bodies. It is estimated that about one million m3 of sewage is generated per day in the coastal areas and about 30000m3 of this reaches the surface water bodies. Over exploitation of resources such as mangroves, fisheries, Sand and landspace is evident. Infrastructure development including Ports and Harbors, Sand Mining for industrial and construction purposes, siting of industries recreational activities and house holds have contributed to coastal erosion. The record growth in tourism is imposing tremendous pressure on the environment. A major port at Cochin and 14 minor ports and fishing harbours are situated in this coastal zone. The fisheries sector is in the coastal zone. The fisheries sector is facing pressure arising out of the excess fishing fleet, habitat degradation, over fishing and juvenile fishery. The major schemes like Thanneermukkam and Thottappally spill way are constructed in the Coastal Zone with a view to achieve agricultural development in the Kuttanad area which have created environment problems.

4. Nature and Biodiversity : The total forest area in the state is about 10185 km2 which accounts about 22% of the total area. The mangrove forest area in the coastal belt is about 420 ha. The degrading of natural forests is due to factors such as unregulated / illegal harvest, forest fire, weeds, diversion for non-forest purposes, soil erosion, harmful effects on management and poor regeneration. The Western Ghat region is one of the 24 biodiversity hot spots in the whole world. The state contains more than 4500 species of flowering plants. The major causes for the loss of indigenous agriculture and domesticated biodiversity is due to the degradation of native agri-ecosystems, large conversion of agricultural land, introduction of exotic crops, mechanised farming etc. There are 102 species of mammals, 476 species of birds, 169 species of reptiles, 89 species of amphibians and 202 species of fresh water fishes, reported from Kerala.

With the high density of population for any state in the country, with limited natural resources the pressure on the Environment in the State is on a very high side. When it is combined with the numerous pockets of ecologically fragile areas and biodiversity hot spots, this assumes greater significance.

5. Air Quality and Noise Pollution : The major causes of air and noise pollution in the state are due to automobiles and industries. The growth of automobile population by 2002 is estimated to rise 20 times that of 1970. Kerala has over 25 lakh licensed vehicles on the road today while the total length of the carriage way is only 21347 km. Vehicular emission and noise from these vehicles are severe in the three major cities of Kerala, viz., Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi and Kozhikode. The pollution from industries are mainly contributed by the four major industrial areas of the state, three in Ernakulam (Eloor, Ambalamughal and Udyogamandal) and one in Kanjikode at Palakkad. Bulk of the major/medium industries and the maximum number of vehicles are in Ernakulam which has naturally resulted in an adverse impact in the air quality. The Kerala State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) has brought out 592 large/medium and 2700 SSI units under the consent regime of Air(Prevention Control of Pollution) Act. The ambient air quality monitoring, being carried out by the KSPCB at 11 stations in the state, has reported that Suspended Particular Matter (SPM) and Respirable Suspended Particulate Matter (RSPM) levels exceed the ambient air quality standards. However,SO2&Nox levels are within the stipulated standards. The shift in focus in the energy sector from hydel sources to fossil fuel, ie., 791MW power generation using fossil fuel out of total generation of 2621MW also contributes to an increase in air pollution. The unplanned urban growth also augments the air quality and noise pollution considerably. Indiscriminate use of loud speakers contributes to the sound pollution problem in the state.

To control air pollution, unleaded petrol and desulphurised diesel have been introduced to reduce emission of lead and sulphur respectively. Use of air horns has been banned. The accelerated renovation of road network would help to reduce vehicle emissions and noise levels created by them. Incentives, subsidies and tax benefits are extended to industries by the Government to help them implement the latest pollution control measures.

6. Solid, Hazardous and Biomedical Wastes: The average waste generation per capita in Kerala is high compared to the national average. About 26% of total health care institutions in India are located in Kerala and the total quantity of hazardous waste generated and handled in the State is about 82724 tons/year. The quantity of recyclable hazardous waste is 10725 tons/year, incinerable hazardous waste is 10725 tons/year, incinerable hazardous waste 2596 tons/year and for land disposal is 60538 ton/year. About 1.5 lakhs ton/day of solid waste is being generated from the hospitals and other health care establishments. The quantity of garbage generated in the state is about 6000tons/day. Kerala is having the highest number of (5095) health care institutions. There are 600 about 12000kg per bed. The Government of Kerala has brought out a vision document on biomedical waste management in which it is proposed to have three common biomedical waste treatment and disposal facilities in the State.

The Government such set up the State Pollution Control Board in 1984 to address issues arising out of pollution of air and water as well as hazardous wastes. Several sectoral departments such as forest and wildlife, water resources and local self government have been addressing issues relating to forest and wildlife, to tiver pollution and solid waste management respectively. The Clean Kerala Mission has been set up by the Government of Kerala with the objective of having a litter free state. A Coastal Zone Management Authority has been set up top administer issues relating to Coastal Regulation Zone notification. Recently, State Biodiversity Board has been set up to the Government in accordance with Biodiversity Act, 2003.

The present SoE report attempts to draw a baseline based on secondary data. It is expected that this will generate a case for a detailed environmental monitoring programme so that a more accurate detailed SoE can be drawn on a periodic basis. Simultaneously, the report should pave the way for increased awareness leading to better protection and conservation of the precious natural environment ecosystems.

For More Details Contact

Head Coastal and Environment Division

Sasthra Bhavan, Pattom,
Thiruvananthapuram 695004
Kerala, INDIA.
Tel: ++91 + 471 2548200
Fax: ++91 + 471 2540085
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.