Wullar Lake to get breather

CM To Launch Conservation Program On Dec 5

ARIF SHAFI WANI

Srinagar, Nov 19: In a significant development, the Jammu and Kashmir Government has decided to launch the conservation program of Asia’s largest freshwater lake, Wullar, in north Kashmir from next month.
The Wullar Management Action Plan which has been facing inordinate delay in its execution from past several years, will be launched by the Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on the occasion of birth anniversary of his grandfather and National Conference founder Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah on December 5.
The conservation plan envisages the Wullar’s water and land resources management, bio-diversity conservation, livelihood improvement and besides institutional development.
‘We have received first installment of Rs 30 crore for Wullar conservation from the Centre. The Chief Minister has agreed to kick-start conservation of Wullar on December 5. The CM has extended all support for restoring the Wullar to its pristine glory,” the Minister for Forests and Environment, Mian Altaf told Greater Kashmir.
Officials said the Union Minister of Environment and Forests, Jayanti Natrajan, is also scheduled to participate in a function here to mark commencement of the ambitious conservation plan. Earlier this month, the Centre had set November 2011 as a deadline to the Jammu and Kashmir Government for undertaking measures for conservation of the Wullar which has witnessed massive deterioration over the years.
Out of Rs 386 crore Wullar Management Action Plan, the 13th Finance Commission had last month approved Rs 120 crore for next four years. A committee headed by secretary MoEF had examined the Action Plan and recommended a release of Rs 30 crore, as first installment for Wullar conservation. However, the State Government had maintained that it had not received the funds for it.
“I personally took up the matter with the Union Environment Ministry and underscored importance of Wullar conservation. With the release of first installment of funds, we will be able to launch the lake’s conservation measures on war-footing,” Altaf said.
“Undoubtedly the condition of Wullar lake has deteriorated in past few decades, but the State Government is committed to conserve it for future generations. Besides possessing ecological significance of immense importance, Wullar has the potential to become one of the best tourist attractions not only of the Valley but whole country. We will be consulting concerned experts for ensuring speedy restoration of the lake” Altaf said.
Altaf said spots for dredging and uprooting of willow in Wullar have already been identified. “As recommended by the MoEF, the revenue accrued through the sale from uprooted willow plantation would be utilized for other components which have been deleted from the conservation plan due to constraint of funds,” he said.
Altaf said the Wullar Development Authority with the Chief Minister as its chairman will also be formed next month.
“Till then, the committee headed by the Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests Abdul Razak will monitor the Wullar conservation measures,” he added.
Pertinently, till a few decades ago Wullar acted as a huge absorption basin for the annual floodwaters, maintaining a balance in the hydrographic system of the Valley. The lake with its associated wetlands form an important habitat for migratory water birds within Central Asian Flyway and supported rich biodiversity. However, due to massive encroachments and siltation, the lake has been reduced from 273 sq kms to less than 70 sq kms.
Official figures State that nearly 69072 kanals of converted land of Wullar have been occupied illegally mainly by various government departments. The problem is compounded by continuous influx of silt from nearby catchments which has turned a large chunk of the water body into a land mass.
For past few years, the Chief Minister has also been expressing his concern over the Wullar’s condition. “We should not have any hesitation in acknowledging the fact that least attention was given towards such places of importance in past. Wullar is not only a historic lake, its eco-friendly importance for the entire Kashmir Valley is of significant importance. Therefore, while executing Wullar conservation plan, expert groups should be involved in the process,” Omar had stated while chairing a review meeting last year.
Environmentalists maintain that winter is the best time for undertaking conservation measures including dredging due to lean water discharge. “It is a welcome step rather a ray of hope that the Government has finally decided to launch conservation of Wullar.
However, the initiative must be sustained and include all aspects till Wullar regains its lost glory,” said Aijaz Rasool, a noted hydraulic engineer who is also a member of the Committee of Experts on Wullar, Tso-Morari and Mansar-Surinsar lakes under the Prime Minister’s reconstruction plan of Jammu and Kashmir.

Lastupdate on : Sat, 19 Nov 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sat, 19 Nov 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sun, 20 Nov 2011 00:00:00 IST




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