Dal lake pollution provides us with a classic example of how little we appreciate the beauty of nature. Dal lake ' much visited, little understood ' has become a pathetic sight. It no longer cleans the body; it only saps the body and sags the soul!
The Dal Lake, situated to the east and northeast of Srinagar city, falls in the Srinagar district, Kashmir. The lake is surrounded on all sides, except the south, by the slopes of high mountains. On the edge of this lake spread various villages, orchids and the famous Mughal Gardens, providing a splendid view. It has been the centre of Kashmiri Civilization since time immemorial.
Nature had, thus, done much for this lake. There has never been a time when man has not modified his environment, but the changes that are taking place now are major and rapid as compared to the past. The Dal was perhaps one of the most beautiful spots in the world and looked like the city's aquatic plaza! It was one of the main elements that comprised the successful tourist formula, thus making the Kashmir Valley a wonderful tourist resort. The lake contributed about 16% of the States' income. About 42% workers were engaged in the activities in the lake. The water of Dal Lake was crystal-clear and people used to say that the famous shawls of Kashmir owe much of their excellence to being washed in the soft waters of this lake.
Up to the beginning of the sixteenth century, the Dal Lake was undisturbed, but after the visit of the Mughal, emperors the changes started. The Mughal gardens were laid and in the 18th and 19th century Srinagar city started to grow towards the lake, which brought about far-reaching changes in its surroundings. Due to the construction of the bunds, roads, etc there occurred certain changes in the water-flow pattern and creation of large areas of stagnant water. The lake ecology changed due to poor sanitary conditions of the houseboat. Sewage was directly discharged into the lake, thus polluting it. The water body was going waste as the nutrient inflow from the catchment area began to give rise to excessive weed growth. This affected the water clarity and made the lake shallower. It was really strange that the very people benefiting from it were slowly destroying the lake, which was the center of beauty in Srinagar and attracted thousands of tourists every year.
Dal Lake is facing serious pollution crises. The main risk factors of predicting a short life span of the lake include siltation of the lake, encroachments, inflow of sewage, excessive weeds growth and increase of certain chemical parameters. The lake area has decreased from 18 sq. miles to 2 n-files of open water (1883) and further to 10.56 sq. km. (1983). Due to the continuous flow of effluent waste in the Dal solid pollutants are deposited on the lake floor. Along the shores of this lake there is cutthroat competition for land grab by the businessmen, industrialists, and local bureaucrats. Its hydro chemical features reveal the ecological changes that have taken place. It is estimated that about 80000 tones of silt, 31000 kg of nitrates and 4000 kg of phosphates are added annually to the lake. Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD) has considerably increased whereas Dissolved Oxygen (DO) level has fallen below permissible limits. Various parameters exceed the permissible limits proposed by WHO.
There came a red warning in August 1991, whereby a thick layer of red algal bloomEuglena rubra - appeared on the surface of the lake. The local fish population ofShizo thorax declined, and the faeces of warm-blooded animals contaminated the water. Surprisingly enough, the important water plant - Eurayle ferox - too disappeared from the lake due to the deteriorating water quality.
The laying of cow dung along the periphery of the Dal Lake has enriched the water with nitrates and phosphates. The vegetable floating farms have been converted into housing colonies. There are drains, which are directed into the lake. The people living in the houseboats have, thus, played a great role in polluting the Dal water. There are higher incidences of gastrointestinal disorders besides other water-borne diseases among the local people as well as the tourists. Considering the present state of Dal Lake, it is no longer a shocking fact that it is one of the 93 sick lakes of the world.
Feeling concerned with the deteriorating condition of this lake, studies and investigations were started in 1976 with the Govt. of India and some international agencies. The Govt. in 1986 constituted an expert group in the Ministry of Urban Development to examine this matter and hence launched a "Dal Development Project". A lot of effort was made to prevent further pollution but a practical work remains to be done. Authorities right from the government up to the district and block levels are doing very little to save the lake from further destruction. Even imported machines are not able to clear the lake of the weeds and filth. Though a lot of paper work is done, everything is not implemented. Dal Lake may become a thing of the past if appropriate steps are not taken at the right time. This issue is not so simple to be solved by engineering works alone. Timely action against pollution seems to be the only long-term cure as physical clearing of the weeds could be both time-consuming and uneconomical. If this condition continues, we can soon call Dal "a dying heritage".
What is needed is an integrated approach combining physical, biological, ecological, engineering and social measures. A permanent environmental protection agency or society should be established where practical work is done involving the NGOS, the budding youth as well as the masses. The public should be properly informed so that they are better equipped to fight such issues. We should make sure that we don't dump any garbage into the lake, as Dal is not a garbage dump! Any kind of malfunctioning or illegal work going on should be reported to the concerned authorities like the Pollution Control Board, UEED, etc.
Dal Lake is God-given gift, an inheritance from our forefathers, a legacy for the future...
Save it or else witness its' extinction!