Environmental Geology

, Volume 54, Issue 4, pp 879–889 | Cite as

Environmental effects of river sand mining: a case from the river catchments of Vembanad lake, Southwest coast of India

  • D. PadmalalEmail author
  • K. Maya
  • S. Sreebha
  • R. Sreeja
Original Article


Rivers in the southwest coast of India are under immense pressure due to various kinds of human activities among which indiscriminate extraction of construction grade sand is the most disastrous one. The situation is rather alarming in the rivers draining the Vembanad lake catchments as the area hosts one of the fast developing urban-cum-industrial centre, the Kochi city, otherwise called the Queen of Arabian Sea. The Vembanad lake catchments are drained by seven rivers whose length varies between 78 and 244 km and catchment area between 847 and 5,398 km2. On an average, 11.73 million ty−1 of sand and gravel are being extracted from the active channels and 0.414 million ty−1 of sand from the river floodplains. The quantity of instream mining is about 40 times the higher than the sand input estimated in the gauging stations. As a result of indiscriminate sand mining, the riverbed in the storage zone is getting lowered at a rate of 7–15 cm y−1 over the past two decades. This, in turn, imposes severe damages to the physical and biological environments of these river systems. The present paper deals with the environmental effects of indiscriminate sand mining from the small catchment rivers in the southwest coast of India, taking the case of the rivers draining the Vembanad lake catchments as an example.


River sand mining Riverbed lowering Vembanad lake catchments Southwest India 



We thank Director, Centre for Earth Science Studies (CESS), Thiruvananthapuram for encouragement and support. Mr. Arun P.R. and Smt. Mini S.R. helped the authors in the field and also in statistical processing of field data. We are indebted to Mr. N.K. Sukumaran Nair (PPS), Mr. Gopinathan Nair and Professor Sitharaman (AKRPC) for fruitful discussions and help in various ways during collection of secondary data. Thanks are also due to Dr. K.M.Nair, Director, Vakkom Moulavi Foundation Trust, Thiruvananthapuram and former Director, CESS for guidance and encouragement. We thank the Central Water Commission, Kochi for sediment discharge and riverbed lowering data. The financial assistances from Government of Kerala and various Panchayat Raj Institutions of State are also greatly acknowledged.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Environmental Sciences DivisionCentre for Earth Science StudiesThiruvananthapuramIndia

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