Govt Contests Reports On Dal Water Expanse

Govt Contests Reports On Dal Water Expanse

8 March 2014
Greater Kashmir
Arif Shafi Wani

New Delhi: Government on Saturday stated that there has been no change in the water expanse of Dal Lake for the past over 120 years. “There are contradictory reports about total water expanse of Dal Lake. It is being wrongly projected that Dal Lake has shrunk from 75 sq kms in 1880 to 11.5 sq kms at present. This figure has no basis and is in contravention of studies including satellite imaging of Dal,” said Divisional Commissioner Kashmir, Shailendra Kumar, chairing a workshop on Dal Lake here. Referring to the studies of Dal by then Settlement Commissioner of Kashmir, Sir Walter Lawrence, Kumar said the water expanse of the lake was 25.8 sq kms in 1895. “According to the satellite imagery undertaken few years ago, the water expanse of the lake is 26.4 sq kms. There is a hell of difference between perception and reality. These figures should help to dispel the wrong notion created about the total water expanse of Dal,” said Shailendra Kumar who was chief guest of the inception workshop ‘Strategy and action plan for strengthening the ecological integrity of the Dal Lake’. The workshop is part of an ambitious project on Dal conservation sponsored by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). It was organized by the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and Environment (ATREE), a Bangalore-based environmental think-tank, and Kashmir University. The Divisional Commissioner, who heads a high-level committee on Dal Lake, said the lake is bedeviled by various problems and enumerated measures undertaken by the Government for conservation of the water body. “Dal suffered a lot during the militancy period. Despite all challenges, government has been making efforts to restore Dal. Restoration of Dal is a human issue as it concerns livelihood of thousands of lake dwellers including farmers. While rehabilitating the lake dwellers at Rakh-e-Arth, a mechanism has been formulated to provide them livelihood for supporting their families,” he said. Quoting a report by the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), Kumar said that 80 percent of Dal waters possess good quality in winter. “However, in summer when there is huge intake of tourists into the lake, 57 percent of water is good quality. The silver lining for us is that there Dal doesn’t have poor quality water,” he said. He said the Lakes and Waterways Development Authority (LAWDA) has constructed many STPs and sewers to stop influx of sewage into the Dal and work of rest of related works is going on. “I am emotionally attached with Dal Lake and desire that the water body is conserved for posterity. I urge all the stakeholders particularly the lake dwellers to extend support to efforts of the Government aimed at its conservation,” he said. In his address, Vice-Chancellor KU, Prof Tatal Ahmad said that there is need to check the inflow of the solid waste and other eroding material from the catchment areas into the Dal Lake. “Lot of soil erosion which contributes to the sedimentation of the lake has taken place over the years and there is need to check and prevent it by taking afforestration initiatives in the surrounding areas of the lake,” he said. He said the varsity would provide its intellectual and scientific inputs for restoration of Dal Lake. Representative of UNDP, Dr Ruchi Pant, enumerated the objectives of the project on Dal. “The idea behind the project is to receive feedback from the stakeholders and formulate a comprehensive action plan for restoration of Dal,” Dr Ruchi said. Chairperson LAWDA, Irfan Yasin said conservation of Dal is unique project as over 60,000 people live in it. “LAWDA has been executing the project in letter and spirit, however unless there is sense of belonging for the lake among its dwellers, it will be difficult to achieve set targets,” Yasin said. Commissioner SMC, Dr GN Qasba said siltation is one of the major threats to Dal and suggested strengthening of measures including afforestation to stop influx of silt from the lake catchments. Director ATREE, Dr G Balachander, underscored the need for restoration of Dal. “Our aim is not finger-pointing but identification of the gaps in conservation of Dal,” he said, stressing for launching massive awareness campaigns for Dal conservation. Registrar KU, Prof Zafar Reshi, highlighted the importance of Dal conservation. “All natural entities age and this also holds true for Dal. We cannot restore the lake to its pristine glory but take measures to prolong its existence,” Prof Reshi said. Dean Academic Affairs KU, Prof AM Shah, said despite many projects and spending crores of rupees the condition of Dal has not registered significant improvement. “From the management perspective, we have to set objectives for Dal conservation which are achievable to obtain optimum results,” he said. Chairman of Houseboat Owners Association, Muhammad Yousuf Chapri, extended support to the measures by government for restoration of Dal. However, he maintained that people of Dal should be treated as part of its eco-system. “Wular Lake has no houseboats or habitations, still it is on the verge of extinction,” he said. Project Coordinator, Dr Manzoor A Shah said the objective of the workshop is to bring various stakeholders, researchers, civil society representatives, policy makers and enforcement agencies on a common platform to deliberate on key issue for conservation and management of Dal Lake. During the workshop technical sessions were held in which the participants dwelt on various aspects of the lake.