Weed proliferation defaces Dal Lake

As authorities struggle, environmentalists for using traditional removal methods

ARIF SHAFI WANI
Srinagar, Publish Date: Sep 13 2017 12:57AM | Updated Date: Sep 13 2017 12:57AM
Weed proliferation defaces Dal LakeFile Photo

Proliferation of weeds especially Lily pads in various parts of Dal Lake is taking a heavy toll on its flora and fauna with experts recommending immediate removal of the vegetation.   

In absence of sustained deweeding operation, a large expanse of the lake in Hazratbal basin and in the vicinity of SKICC has been engulfed with weeds.

Official figures state that only one sq Kms has been cleared so far from Lily pads out of its extent of estimated five sq.kms. The High Court which is monitoring the Dal conservation had last week expressed concern over covering of water surface of the lake with weeds. The Court has directed the LAWDA to clear the lake of water lilies as advised by the Scientific Advisory Committee.  

“Due to massive infestation of weeds, the lake parts are covered with green cover and look like a garden. Ironically, authorities make more use of machines than traditional methods by skilled laborers to undertake deweeding operations and this leads to speedy regrowth of vegetation” said Ghulam Rasool, president Dal Dwellers Welfare Union.

Though the Lakes and Waterways Development Authority (LAWDA) has pressed in men and machinery for deweeding, but lack of dumping place defeats its objective to clear the lake of weeds. 

“Shifting the deweeded material to banks causes seed dispersal which leads to weed growth in otherwise weed-free areas of the lake. To prevent this, there should be suitable dumping place for weeds within the lake,” he added. 

Prof Shakil Ahmad Romshoo, who heads the Department of Earth Sciences in Kashmir University, said it is a matter of concern that lily pads, which are non-native aquatic species in Dal lake, have spread over a vast area reducing the open water spread.

“When under control, the flowering Lily pads have an aesthetic and ornamental value and bring color and life to the lake waters. They also limit the growth of algae in the lake which otherwise bloom excessively. However, when the Lilies grow excessively as is the case these days, they choke out and suffocate the native flora and fauna in the lake and are an eye sore as well,” he said. 

Elaborating, Romshoo said as the Lilies have rooted rhizomes, it is advisable to uproot these aggressive aquatic plants manually using traditional techniques so that the problem of their proliferation is checked in the lake. 

“The mechanical de-weeding leaves roots underwater, which will lead to new growth of these lilies and needs to be repeated again and again.  However, manual de-weeding is a hard work and there are not many people readily available to engage in manual removal of the lilies in the lake,” he said. 

However, he said keeping in view the present areal extent of the proliferation of the lilies in the lake, it would be a challenge for the lake managers to eradicate the lilies using manual approach only.  “They would have to explore new hydraulic methods for getting rid of the menace of lily proliferation in the lake,” he added.

Environmentalist MRD Kundangar said influx of nitrate and phosphates mainly from STPs contributes to growth of weeds. 

“Nitrates and Phosphates result in weed infestation and ecologically are binding the hazardous pollutants in their roots and rhizomes rendering the Dal waters clean,” he added.  

Vice-Chairman LAWDA, Dr Hafeez Masoodi, acknowledged the problem. “The problem is enormous but we have launched a comprehensive operation of clear the weeds and Lily pads from the lake. By and large we use traditional methods to clear the weeds but as the outgrowth is massive, we have also pressed machines into service.” 

The V-C said the Lily pads were grown around Kabutar Khana by Maharaja Hari Singh. “Lily pads spread to Hazratbal basin because Dal was unattended for last several years and proliferated due to nutrient rich waters and climate change,” he added.