A number of causes, not one, are responsible for the deterioration of our city lakes including Dal, Nageen, Anchar and Hokhar Sar, Gil Sar and Khushal Sar. The formation of floating islands both from the peripheries and in the centre of these water bodies is one of the biggest problems that has completely obliterated our lakes and have changed their shapes as in Anchar lake, Khushal sar and Hokhar sar. All these water bodies have been deformed and turned into lagoons or land.
Sewage and effluents coming from the catchment areas, houseboat wastes and the solid wastes including non-biodegradable items are thrown directly in water bodies without pre-treatment, thereby contaminating them. Besides there are other deteriorating factors like encroachment, inadequate circulation, construction of hotels and roads in the lakes and, above all, the ignorance of common man about the value of our water bodies, besides non-seriousness of LAWDA and the Government itself. Countless proposals have been suggested by all schools of thought till date, besides the court prohibitory orders, but none of them are implemented, indicating that people and the government is non-serious. Conservation of all city lakes is not so simple that it can be solved by single hand, it is an integrated approach.
There should be total ban on the formation of floating islands and the cultivation of willows and poplars. Anyone seen accumulating lake basin and adding to the peripheries of already existing land should be severely put to task. In this regard, police wing of LAWDA or Tourist Police should take firm action against them. The rapid growth of these floating lands has already deformed and shrunk Anchar and Hokhar sar lakes. Sanitation latrines should be constructed at intervals for the public particularly in the areas where there is public or tourist rush, besides the required dust bins for the solid wastes should be installed. Banners and large posters should be installed, educating locals and visitors by writing environment-friendly messages regarding the importance and conservation of water bodies. This may help to large extent to keep the picnic spots clean near lake areas.
Effluents, polythene and plastic bags being directly dumped by the tourists residing in hotels and houseboats should be stopped, that has posed a great threat particularly in Dal and Nageen lakes. Presently very few or no disposable latrines are used in houseboats, instead all fecal matter and urine goes directly into the lake, adding good manure to the water weeds besides polluting water. Increased richness of nutrients has caused eutrophication resulting in invasion of certain tropical and semitropical weeds particularly Azolla that has caused an alarming threat to our water bodies by choking all tributaries and its rapid growth has almost killed the underwater life like fish and phytoplankton. It has raised the lake bottom causing shallowness. Serious note of it should be taken on war footing to eradicate or keep it under control by biological, chemical and mechanical means before further deterioration.
To save our city water bodies we have to adopt simple methods but strictly. A network of drainage system should be planned in all catchment areas around the lakes so that not a single drop of sewage flows into the lakes. Stoppage of further construction of hotels, restaurants and shops close to the water bodies and plugging of all hotel effluents and the kitchen wastes from the existing hotels flowing directly in these water bodies. Water chemistry to be checked periodically not only by LAWDA but also by various authentic agencies and remedial steps to be taken. Eutrophic weeds should be monitored and removed by latest de-weeding machines. All the encroachments to be removed strictly with sincere approach and strong political will. All the displaced people should be rehabilitated elsewhere.
(Dr. A Majeed Kak
Professor and Research Co-ordinator, Department of Botany, Islamia College, Srinagar)