Restoring Valley’s Lifeline (Dal Lake)

For a long period now many people has been making hue and cry and writing a lot about deteriorating condition of Dal Lake but rarely any one has given some idea about saving, restoration and revival of Dal. As we all know getting Dal to its past pristine glory is a Herculean task. But an integrated multi dimensional strategy with a diamond will; enormous determination and high levels of honesty, integrity and with a sense of possession will lead us to the path of revival of this famed water body. It has to be a mission full of zeal and zest. This revival strategy will comprise of legal, administrative, social and scientific efforts and plans.

Legal and administrative measures – Revival and restoration of Dal need a well defined legislation empowering its management and managers with absolute powers for identifying and prosecuting the violators and encroachers at any point of time. The legislation should prescribe measures of deterrence in the shape of maximum punishment prevalent in a civilized society. It should pave way for a high powered developmental authority comprising of experts from the field of hydrology, aquatic flora and fauna; civil and mechanical engineers with good sense of aesthetics and taste and of course few people from the society having no knowledge of any of these fields, except they should be honest and serve as representatives for social vigilance. The whole system of managing the water body should be free from all political interference and red tape-ism. Legal status of the lake needs to be restored by demarcating and notifying it as per its original title and status fifty years ago. The demarcated area should include the catchment areas of the lake, streams and other tributary which recharge the lake. This process needs minimum financial implication and efforts but the higher rate of willpower at all levels of administration and governance.

A team of honest, upright, officers and officials with a clear mandate should be entrusted the job of preventive and revival measures with a fool proof mechanism of accountability. The people at the helm of affairs have to be men of integrity full of leadership traits. The administrative set up should ensure integrated and cohesive working and intervention of all government departments and other agencies in the notified area. All agencies of any nature, civic, developmental, healthcare and educational should be under the administrative control of the executive head of the proposed Dal development authority. This administrative setup for the lake should virtually be empowered to work as a state within the state. This will stop and discourage agencies from passing the buck for any inefficiency, negligence and consequent failure and taking credit for nothing.

Social- In any revolution, society and its values play a major role and revival of Dal is no less than a revolution in itself. Awareness among the Dal dwellers and people living in its vicinity need to be made aware, of the importance of Dal as an ecological heritage and long time source of survival and sustenance. The importance of clean water important for good health of aquatic flora and fauna and other habitation within and around the lake is to be inculcated within the social groups around the lake by simple motivation and practical approach. Every educational unit coming within the demarcated area of the Dal authority should have a subject regarding conservation of Dal Lake. People in and around Dal if made aware of importance of this water body with religious zeal will help in containing any further damage to Dal Lake. But this job should not be entrusted to our routine NGO fraternity who by no means are accountable at any level and are not well equipped with trained manpower and tools of extension education and social science. The true social awareness on Dal revival front will show wonders if the job is carried as a noble cause on professional lines. Every religious and social institution and leadership can be involved to carry forward this social . What really I found on ground, that every one wants survival and revival of Dal but lack of cohesive and sincere leadership is impeding this process.

Scientific- The ultimate survival and revival package will have to be a multi pronged scientific approach with major mechanical and biological interventions.

Mechanical- The priority should be containing and removing encroachments in and around the Lake. Before removing the genuine inhabitants within the water body by compensating them properly the encroachers within and around the lake should be identified and mowed down as they have no moral or legal right to be heard before removing them. All this will need maximum mechanical efforts with huge machinery. The periphery of the lake needs complete drudging, and uprooting of all vegetation other than the friendly aquatic flora. This will determine the borders and a cut off line between the dry land around the lake and the water body will be drawn. This will also terminate and plug the much talked about sewerage flow emptying in the lake. For this purpose huge decked drudging machinery which can clear all sort of encroachments and fillings in the lake has to be procured and pressed in service. The accumulated mud and human waste particularly on the periphery of the lake needs specialized machinery and technical know how so that it can be removed from the bed of the lake directly to the dumping place in the near vicinity through pipes as is the practice even now. After demarcating the lake the inner areas can be cleared in a phase manner. The disposal of huge drudged material within the lake comprising of soil and building material can be a big task for the managers. This can be achieved by consolidating all this material at some identified place within the lake with sound professional advice from experts and transformed into a small island like structure and later on turned into a non-conventional and informal landscape structure. If approved by scientists, environmental experts and landscape designers this will save enormous efforts, huge money and lot of time otherwise required for disposal of all such materials. The clogged aquifers of lake which used to charge the lake within with fresh clean water in the shape of springs need attention of experts and mechanical intervention.

Biological- As we know a fragile relationship between the aquatic flora and fauna of the lake exists and has to be preserved for the good health of the lake. A comprehensive pro- active strategy for marinating this fragile relationship is the topmost priority of life science experts to be associated with revival of Dal. The weed population of the lake is to be maintained to certain required levels as other wise the nutrient level of the lake will become imbalanced and will affect the hydrology of the lake. But increased population of weeds will also adversely affect the over all health of the Dal by adding a lot of biomass which after decomposition will lead to further imbalance in biological life of the lake. A balanced biological atmosphere is to be maintained in the lake with a complete scientific strategy and approach. This proper balance of biological life warrants continuous de-weeding but under the strict guidance of experts who can determine the timing, method and quantum of de-weeding process. The mechanical de-weeding adopted by the authorities in past is no doubt cost effective and time saving but it does not decrease the population of weeds but instead encourages the lateral growth in partially trimmed weed plants creating a vegetation blanket thus impeding the flow of light to the lower sections of lake leading to deteriorated aquatic life of lake down below. This method is cosmetic and in no way will help the revival and survival of Dal.  The traditional pulling of weeds by long poles lowers the population of the weed plants within the lake and if properly observed it helps in drudging by getting out some sediment material with the pulled root system of weeds. Proper aquatic fauna can be introduced in the lake for maintaining its health but all this can be carried only under the joint guidance and vigil of hydrologists, botanists and pisciculture experts so that other species of aquatic fauna, flora and chemical balance within the lake does not get any adverse effect.

It is interesting to note that a vast portion of Srinagar habitation located on the periphery of Dal unload their sewerage into Dal because of faulty, clogged or outdated sewerage system. Faulty systems can be rectified by making necessary amendments but clogged systems make Dal more vulnerable to untreated loads of sewerage by overflowing by clogged system or intentional off loading by the population. Modern scientific probing and rectifying mechanism for clogged sewerage system can be put in service. The technique is in operation in many parts of the country and is easily available with quality equipment and expertise within the country. The technique involves robotic probing of drains and rectifying the problem by mechanical and chemical treatments. If some credible agency is engaged to set the drainage system of Srinagar (particularly the old city as all its areas have a natural slope leading towards Dal) right by ensuring free flow of sewerage to its destination. This way Dal can be saved to a large extent from further damages due to  untreated sewerages.

All these plans and efforts if devised and implemented with complete scientific approach under the guidance of concerned experts will at least in the first instance contain any further damage to Dal and in future if levels of honesty and sincerity are maintained we can retrieve this world famous water body from the dark tunnel of greed and encroachment.

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