February 2018 News

Dal Lake Fights For Survival As Pollution Levels Go Up

15 February 2018
The Tribune (Chandigarh)
Rifat Mohidin

Srinagar: Forty-year-old Farooq Ahmad covers his mouth as he steps out of his small wooden provisional store inside the Dal Lake. The water stinks and heaps of weed and garbage can be seen on the surface of the lake which was once pristine. Houseboat owners, locals, and boat riders are disappointed with the failed efforts of the government to bring back the glory of the lake. 'I have grown up here and it is disappointing to see the lake dying,' says Ahmad, a lake dweller. On October 2 last year, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti had visited the interiors of the Dal Lake and expressed her concern towards the rising pollution levels in the lake. She said she would monitor the cleaning of the lake periodically. However, despite her visit, nothing changed. Shahzada Begum, 45, a Dal dweller, says her children have fallen ill due to the foul smell of the lake. 'We are suffocating. For the last few months, the lake has witnessed a sharp rise in pollution. The government is not doing anything,' she rues. The lake faces a bleak future, as the sewage and high-nutrient load continues to flow through it. 'The rising pollution and discharge of sewage into the lake from Rainawari and Babdem localities are a hindrance in its conservation,' says 65-year-old Ghulam Muhammad, a shikara owner, maintaining that the tourist inflow has been affected due to the bad condition of the lake. 'No one wants to stay in the houseboats as the surroundings are unpleasant,' he says. 'Thousands of people are dependent on the lake for their livelihood. Be it houseboat owners, vegetable sellers or shikarawalas, everyone has been affected. The sewage is discharged into the lake and the authorities are doing nothing about it,' says Bashir Ahmad, another lake dweller. A study conducted by a team of researchers from the University of Kashmir has found that the lake has lost 24.49 per cent of its area between 1859 to 2013, as it faced 'multiple pressures' from unplanned urbanisation, high population growth and nutrient load from intensive agriculture and tourism. Residents also blame the Lakes and Waterways Development Authority (LAWDA) for its failure to stop illegal constructions in the interiors of the lake. 'They are only earning money. They are not doing anything to clean the lake,' allege residents, maintaining that the front part of the lake that lies along the Foreshore Road is being cleaned, while the interiors have remained dirty. AR Yousuf, chairman, Scientific Advisory Committee, who is also a former expert at the National Green Tribunal, describes the entry of sewage into the lake a major problem. 'There needs to be a sewage treatment plant (STP) around the lake. If we want to save it, a lot needs to be done at the level of the government and residents,' he adds. A study conducted by a team of researchers from the University of Kashmir has found that the lake has lost 24.49 per cent of its area between 1859 to 2013 due to unplanned urbanisation, rising population and nutrient load from intensive agriculture and tourism.

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