Valley lakes losing Juwar to pollution, encroachments

ARIF SHAFI WANI

Srinagar, Feb 8: Unabated pollution and increased human intervention in the Valley lakes has brought a popular aquatic herb and cash plant named Juwar on the verge of extinction, a study reveals.
Juwar scientifically known as Euryale Ferox, was abundant in all the Valley lakes and wetlands until a few decades ago. It is also known as fox nut, makhana, or gorgon plant.
Considered as a native of India and China, Juwar seeds have been popular among the Kashmiris for its high nutritional and medicinal value. The Juwar seeds were also considered as ‘sacred’ by the Kashmiri Pandits who used to break their fast by eating the bread prepared from its flour. In China Euryale Ferox seeds are cooked in soups along with other ingredients, and are believed to strengthen male potency and retard aging.
However, with the deterioration of lakes and wetlands in the Valley due to unbridled inflow of sewage and human interventions, Juwar is in its last throes.
The decline of Juwar has been established by Valley’s noted environmentalist Dr Abdul Majeed Kak after conducting a comprehensive scientific study on the aquatic and marsh land vegetation in the Valley.
“During my investigations, it was seriously noticed that Juwar, which was once abundantly growing in all the lakes and other marshy places has suddenly dwindled during the past 3 to 4 decades due to pollution of water bodies, indiscriminate use of pesticides, insecticides and herbicides, land reclamation and increasing urbanization,” Dr Kak told Greater Kashmir.
Elaborating, he said the Valley lakes including Dal, Anchar and Wular are under heavy stress both from inshore and catchments activities.
“Despite ban, lot of construction material pours into the lakes from all the sides. Also the inshore have been converted into floating islands for the cultivation of all types of vegetables. This has reduced the areas of our water bodies. Over cultivation of Nadur, one of the highly profitable crops in all open waters without any check has further deteriorated the condition of the lakes and led to decline in Juwar population,” he said.
He said the problem gets compounded as there is no effort for settlement of the lake dwellers. “The Juwar which is a stem-less prickly aquatic herb is considered to be a nuisance by the lake dwellers as it hampers smooth movement of boats. The Shikara or boat pullers break the Juwar leaves thus destroying it completely,” Kak said. “These factors have accelerated eutrophication and exploitation of flora and fauna including Juwar for economic gains.”
Dr Kak sees hope in revival of Juwar as the plant has started to grow in Manasbal lake after sustained measures to restore the water body during the past few years. He said although preliminary efforts to conserve Juwar have been successful, knowledge about the species was still inadequate.
“More basic research regarding ecological traits and genetic diversity in this weed is urgently needed to ensure that conservation efforts of this remarkable plant in Kashmir are successful. There is a great potential for its cultivation on large scale and for its exploitation as a plant for food and medicine that needs priority. In case of inaction, Juwar can never be revived.” he said.

Lastupdate on : Tue, 8 Feb 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Tue, 8 Feb 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Wed, 9 Feb 2011 00:00:00 IST




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