Integrated Lake Basin Management (ILBM), Impacts on Biodiversity and Child Malnutrition: A Case Study of Tribal Belt in Western Part of India



  • International Lake Environment Committee Foundation (ILEC)


  • 22/03/2012

  • REGION :

  • Southern Asia


  • India (Maharashtra)


  • Western part of India is a rich treasury of forest and natural water bodies. This is also a dominant habitat of many ethnic races having harmonious association with plants, animals and water bodies for years together. Malnutrition is a curse for tribal children because of one season cropping pattern on low productive soil, dependence on forest and forest produces, unbalanced protein and micro nutrient deficient diet which is further linked with contaminated water and diarrhea resulting in maximum child mortality below age six. Over the last few years the on going deforestation activities and loss of biodiversity has further triggered this malnutrition issue because of acute shortage of plant based wild food product to pacify the hunger. Though free health services are available along with calorie rich mid day meal programme for malnourished children still the receiving end is deprived of these facilities because of non accessibility to the rendered services. The safe drinking water is available through bore wells but the availability is sporadic forcing tribesto depend on rivers or else go deep into the forest in search of water. Most of the rivers dry up in summer promoting the migration of tribes to nearby urban pockets. There are several small water bodies confined in and around the forest but unfortunately majorities of them are neglected because of siltation showing scanty patches of water in summer available as a drinking source for tribes. The mass scale protein deficiency linked with low immunity among the growing children is a sensitive issue for the survival of many tribal races. Dependence on government and private aids is a disease to this aborigine population that affects the social and economic health of entire community which can be cured by implementing the sustainable upliftment programmes by providing the permanent food security to them and their children. The water bodies have close association with tribes. The revival of much neglected existing water bodies and lakes can play a critical role in this sustainable protein rich food programme by not only in controlling the child malnutrition and mortality but also the economic growth of this poverty laden region by providing employment to the youth and quality food to expecting and lactating mothers. In the present paper apart from existing status of water bodies, deforestation and loss of biodiversity, the authors suggest that productivity of lake water for fish farming and protein rich Spirulina production is the only true solution for sustainable food security to malnourished children under the frame work of integrated lake basin management (ILBM) and the world lake Vision (WLV) by the international lake environment committee (ILEC) Japan.


  • Carotene, ILBM, Malnutrition, Spirulina, Sustainability, Tribes


  • N.S.TekalePresident of NGO “Navdrushti” and Director “Enviro Vigil” Thane, Maharashtra, India M.S.KodarkarMember, scientific committee, ILEC, Japan and secretary, Indian association of Aquatic Biologists (IAAB), Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India P.KarnikDirector, Enviro Vigil, Thane, Maharashtra, India R.SinghNutritional Research Lab, Bandodkar College of Science, Thane, Maharashtra, India


There are several small water bodies confined in the forest cover of western part of India dominated by several tribal races which are socio economically backward and deprived of modern health facilities because of non accessibility and lack of communication as well as transportation. Majority of these water bodies in and around the forest are over flooded in monsoon but almost dry up in summer. Most of the bore wells used for drinking water give very low out put because of rapid decrease in ground water level forcing tribes to depend upon nearby rivers or else go deep into the forest for hours together in search of potable water. Child malnutrition is alarmingly increasing in this zone because of unbalanced diet linked with micronutrient deficiencies. The water requirement of tribes is far below the minimum level which is not more than ten liters a day for each member.

Global warming, climate change, erratic rainfall, prolonged dry spell, traditional agricultural practices on low productive soil, shortage of food grains and drinking water making tribal life more measurable where true victims are the growing children below age six. The diet of children is deficient in protein and vitamin A making them malnourished and immune deficient. Water born diseases are very common among which the diarrhea is always on the top. Malnutrition linked with unsafe drinking water and hygiene forces the children to become a victim of water born diseases. FAO-IFPRT report Sept. 2009 highlights the impact of global climate change on agricultural productivity and expected rise in child malnutrition from 14.6 million to 25 million in 2050.In this future scenario, the tribes are bound to be heavily affected and likely to be wiped out. In this contest, ILBM can be put to test to analyze the critical issue of child malnutrition, mortality by suggesting sustainable solution by taking into account the existing but much neglected water bodies in and around the forest as an alternative to agricultural practices for harvesting protein rich crops and food security to them.


The entire programme was initiated by NGO “Navdrushti” working in health, nutrition and water sector for tribal children at a grass roots level. We conducted the survey of this belt to find out the existing number of lakes and their present status. The survey includes area of each water body, status of eutrophication and utilization.

The status of water bodies located in tribal belt is totally different from urban lakes. We noticed following observations.

1) Water bodies are small and easy to manage

2) There are no man made activities and human habitats in or around the lake

3) There is no input of sewage, any inorganic loading and eutrophication

We also noticed some negative parameters also

1) Majority of water bodies are exposed because of peripheral deforestation activities

2) There is maximum loading of silt in lake from surrounding denuded soil

3) Water bodies are over flooded in monsoon but almost dry up in summer with few patches of stagnant water

Some interesting observations are:

1) Tribes travel miles together in search of such stagnant water in summer during scarcity by confining their growing children in hamlets

2) Same patch of water is used by wild and domestic animals for drinking

3) Shortage of water in summer also forcing the migration of tribes

Deforestation and Impact on Biodiversity:

Deforestation is a non stop process in this belt in which trees are cut illegally, sold in the market for quality wood. The forest land is also used for agricultural practices. Man made fires are the regular tools adopted in which tribes are also involved. The deforestation around the lake is a critical issue for survival of water body because of maximum loading of silt and litters from surrounding areas. Loss of vegetation around the water body has an impact on the habitats of birds and amphibians. Lethal snake bite cases are very common in such areas. Though Indian forest laws are very strict still the shortage of man power and working force indirectly indirectly contributes to such illegal activities. Deforestation around the water body triggers the evaporation and lakes become almost dry in summer. The majority of shade loving medicinal plants growing nearby lake are now disappeared bringing loss to the biodiversity and indigenous health system of tribes.

Impact of Biodiversity on Child Malnutrition:

Deforestation affects biodiversity. We have noticed a huge loss of indigenous fruit trees, herbs, under ground corms, tubers and flowers which are the only prime sources of food for tribes and their children. The tribes are forced to travel deep into the forest for collection of plant based food. The growing kids remain confined in the hamlets for hours together just for want of proper balanced food. The weaning babies are the first victims of malnutrition followed by children below age six. The diet is rich in calories and fiber but deficient in oil and protein along with micronutrient such as Vitamin A, C and iron.

Sustainable Approach to Water Body for Food Security:

We conducted a pilot project study on a water body “Turriya” near Mokhada of Thane district on fish farming as a sustainable approach for food security to tribes and protein rich nutrition to children. The experiment was based on cooperative farming by introducing Silver Carp and Common Carp fish species in lake water. The harvested fish were incorporated into the regular diet of malnourished children as a source of protein and oil. The fish based diet was well accepted by children.

Along with fish farming, we developed a small demonstration pond adjacent to the water body to harvest single cell algal protein Spirulina in collaboration with Parry Nutraceuticals Ltd, Chennai. The harvested spirrulina was then incorporated in the regular diet of malnourished children. The results were very encouraging and promising.


1) In malnutrition control programme, the mother and child were involved together.

2) There was more response to a combination of fish protein (30g) and Spirulina(5g).

3) Grade III malnourished babies were recovered within two months compare to IV grade. The recovery of grade II babies was noticed within a month.

4) Concept of people’s co-operative society was well established.

5) This one year pilot study was a source of income to tribal families and job opportunities for the youth force.

6) The most important finding is that the neglected water body which was on the verge of vanishing has been recovered and returned to a productive form is recovered back that too in a productive form.

7) This low cost sustainable model of existing water body has initiated a new approach of promising source of food security and economical stability for poverty ridden tribes.


The pilot project conducted proves that all the existing water bodies can be exploited for obtaining sustainable food security for the tribes to eradicate child malnutrition with out any external support. The surrounding areas of lake have potential for cultivation of carotene rich nutritional garden and small indigenous fruit trees for additional food source. The productive lakes are the prime source of quality food and employment with additional economic support for them which are living presently under the stress and poverty burden. The productive living water bodies have social, cultural and economic links for overall upliftment of these ethnic races.

Salient findings of this study are as follows:

1) The water bodies in the tribal belt are much neglected and are the true victims of deforestation and siltation

2) These are the only source of drinking water in summer.

3) Deforestation and loss of water bodies is one of the causal factors of child nutrition and mortality.

4) There are no systematic efforts to revive these water bodies because of their location in the forest.

5) These water bodies are free from inorganic pollution load and eutrophication.

6) Easy to manage because of their small size.

7) Can be a potential source for fish farming and single cell protein production to eradicate child malnutrition.

8 ) Can be a permanent source of income generation and job potential for tribal youth force


1) All the existing natural and man made water bodies should be revived and tapped for fish farming and harvesting of algal protein.

2) Rain water should be harvested for construction of bunds for exploiting their catchment areas for winter and summer cropping and fishery.

3) The productivity of lake should be utilized to provide food security to malnourished children and rest shared by stake holders as additional source of income.

4) Only local tribal communities should be involved as stake holder participants.

5) Small fruit tree plantation should be encouraged around the lake to restore the biodiversity loss.

6) The marginal area around the lake should be used for growing the nutritional garden on co-operative basis for providing additional beta carotene rich food to the children.

7) Some of the area around the lake can be reserved for in situ conservation of endangered medicinal plant needed for health security.

8 ) The section of lake can be reserved for providing safe drinking water after proper treatment.

9) The forest official should develop co-valent bonding with tribes for conserving the water bodies.

To summarize, in the context of ILBM, sustainable protein rich food security to malnourished tribal children along with and adequate supply of quality water is the real challenge to reducing the burden of water born diseases and child mortality in the tribal belt of this region under the persistent threats of global warming and climatic change. The integrated approach is the only true sustainable solution for this global problem.


Authors sincerely thank the tribal communities involved in designing and implementing the pilot study and their active cooperation in nutrition programme.


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