The water of life…or death?

The Kerala backwaters are a microcosm of life in India.  I have already posted about the fishing we saw on our tour so today I want to focus on the water itself.

Welcome to the Backwaters

These two young lads welcome you to the backwaters.  How many people would enjoy a swim in these warm waters?  But swimming is not the only activity which takes place.

Life on Keralas Backwaters

When you have no running water you use the nearest source to wash your hair or have a bath.

washing clothes in the Backwaters

You also need somewhere to wash your clothes…

washing pots in the Backwaters

…and your pots and pans.

The big problem is the quality of water, a problem throughout India.

Over 772 million people don’t have access to adequate sanitation in India, that’s two thirds of the population – so you can guarantee that the backwaters are used as a toilet by a number of local residents.

93 million people in India don’t have access to safe water – so you can also guarantee that some people will be getting their drinking water either from the backwaters itself or local wells which are not safe.

Over 186,000 children under five die every year from diarrhoea caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation in India. (Statistics from Water Aid UK  )

Even if people do not drink the water from the Backwaters the fact that they bathe in it, swim in it and eat from pots washed in it means that they are always open to infection.

The Backwaters of Kerala are a beautiful place and I recommend that if you ever get the chance you should visit and enjoy.  Hopefully the income from tourism will help such rural areas to improve the supplies of clean water for the local residents.


Fishing birds of south India

Fishing the Kerala Backwaters is not confined too humans.  These are some of the birds I photographed in just one afternoon whilst leading a tour earlier this year.

Darter Kerala backwaters

The Darter is a beautiful bird, a little like a cormorant but with a longer neck which gives it its common name of ‘snake bird’ as the darter sits very low in the water so that its long neck looks like a water snake.

snakebird India

There are, of course, plenty of kingfishers on the Backwaters.

kingfisher Kerala

Stork billed Kingfisher

Stork billed kingfisher Kerala backwaters

Another common bird seen all over the continent is the Indian pond heron.

Indian pond heron Kerala

Egrets are also very common fishing birds in southern India.

egret South India

As the Backwaters run parallel with the sea coast there also plenty of gulls fishing in the area.

gull, Kerala

bird Kerala backwaters

Cormorants can be see throughout Kerala and Tamil Nadu as they are very partial to a nice piece of fish!

cormorant and fish Kerala

fishing cormorant Kerala backwaters

One of my favourite birds is the brahminy kite which can be seen fishing both fresh and salt waters of the Indian sub-continent.

Brahminy kite Kerala

Kite with fish

Brahminy kite in flight

Hopefully some of you may one day book a holiday with us and I can show you these beautiful creatures live and in their natural habitat!