When tourists turn saviors

BRAVING scorching sun, pungent smell and taunts of locals, Heidi Jurt of Switzerland and Angela Posh of Germany rummaged through piles of garbage littered in Jogi Lanker Channel, the most polluted...

BRAVING scorching sun, pungent smell and taunts of locals, Heidi Jurt of Switzerland and Angela Posh of Germany rummaged through piles of garbage littered in Jogi Lanker Channel, the most polluted part of Dal lake. They scavenged for hours in narrow waterways and rested only when their shikaras were filled with heaps of plastic bottles and polythene.
 Heidi Jurt, a Yoga teacher and a clothing designer, had heard and read a lot about Kashmir's beauty, particularly Dal lake. She was eager to see the 'paradise' and 'world famous' lake. Her friend Angela who had earlier visited the Valley, also decided to accompany her.
 Without second thoughts the duo took a flight and landed in Kashmir. The first thing they did was to board a shikara and enjoy a ride in Dal. "I was mesmerized to see the front portion of the Dal with cleaner waters and bustling with tourists. But I received a shock of my life when I went to the lake's interiors. It has been turned into a garbage dump," Jurt said.
 After seeing the lake's condition, the duo decided to extend their visit and launch a cleaning drive in its interiors. "We can't close our eyes to the destruction of the nature's gift. We believe the pollution of Dal will ultimately affect the eco-system and subsequently our native place. Global warming is a living example before us."
 The duo hired a boat and went on the daunting task of cleaning the garbage. "But the garbage kept piling up. We didn't had any place to dump the collected garbage. We needed help of some government agency," they said. Finally, the duo approached the Lakes and Waterways Development Authority. The duo was provided with laborers and shikaras.

PEOPLE CAN HELP
 But the job proved to be challenging as the locals dumped the garbage directly into the lake. "Even we found the sweepers dump the waste into the lake. Still we did not give up and continued with our job. In absence of any dustbins and legislations against pollution of environment, the lake dwellers seem to have lost the civic sense," they said. Gradually some dwellers understood their concern and started to cooperate. "I believe one day all the dwellers will realize the fact that their survival depends on the lake," Jurt said.
 Citing example of pollution of lakes in Switzerland, she said two decades ago many water bodies there were on the verge of extinction. "But the timely intervention of Government, a few legislations on protecting the lakes and above all cooperation by the people, helped to restore the water bodies. People can make a difference. After all it is their world."

DRINKING POISON
 Jurt and Angela were shocked to know that Dal's water is used for drinking purpose. Pointing towards drains emptying noxious sewage into the lake, Jurt yelled, "It is unbelievable that the authorities are feeding the people with the poisonous waters." Spotting a farmer using the polluted waters for agricultural purposes, they said it was dangerous to consume the vegetables.
 Angela, who is a manager of a hotel in Spain, said it was imperative to place dustbins across the lake. "More than state-of-the-art boarding and lodging facilities, the foreign tourists like clean environment and basic civic amenities. A beautiful lake like Dal deserves to be preserved at any cost for it is a major attraction for tourists."
 Jurt recommends tapping the influx of sewage into the lake. "Until then all the conservation measures are meaningless."
 The duo promises to visit Kashmir again. "Dal is a unique lake with people living in it. We want to contribute our bit in preserving the lake for our future generations."

EFFECT
 The LAWDA vice-chairperson, Irfan Yaseen, says the duo has collected four truckloads of garbage in a week. "We will try to take over the garbage collection in the lake and continue with the endeavor of the foreigners. I wish the Dal dwellers will walk on the footsteps of Jurt and Angela and work together in restoration of the lake," he said.
Jurt and Angela were shocked to know that Dal's water is used for drinking purpose. Pointing towards drains emptying noxious sewage into the lake, Jurt yelled, "It is unbelievable that the authorities are feeding the people with the poisonous waters." Spotting a farmer using the polluted waters for agricultural purposes, they said it was dangerous to consume the vegetables.

MAIN REASONS FOR DETERIORATION
 Shrinkage in area of the lake and increased pollution because of encroachments by hamlets, floating gardens and inflow of sewage and peripheral areas.
 Reduction in volume by silting and clogging of water channels due to catchments area degradation and encroachments.
 Nutrient enrichment of the lake water and sediment resulting in excessive weed growth and change in the bio-diversity in the lake.

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