A step towards conservation

It is a well known fact that Jammu & Kashmir has observed a yawning sprawl in its city limits of both Srinagar & Jammu. Even the population of the state has increased from 4.6 million in 1971(Census of 1971) to over 12 million in 2011. (Census of 2001)

The city of Srinagar has registered a considerable expansion in its limits. In the Srinagar city municipal limits covered only 83 Sq. Kms and in the year 1981 the area was 103.3 Sq e year 1971 kms. Presently the Urban agglomeration of Srinagar covers an area of more than 470 Sq. Kms. The urbanization of the city outskirts has resulted in the encroachment of valuable agriculture and horticulture land in the rural zone and green belt of Srinagar City. The city is exhibiting signs of yawning urban sprawl and a number of new colonies have sprung up in the peripheral agricultural and horticulture areas in a haphazard manner. This has resulted in the encroachment of the valuable wet lands & natural drainage channels which were previously used for the disposal of storm & waste water.

Srinagar city in its original form was located on the banks of River Jehlum and around the peripheries of other water bodies like Dal Lake, Khushalsar, Gilsar, Brari-Numbal etc. The city had an expanse of such a nature that the storm water and waste water found its way under gravity into the water bodies through network of rudimentary and earthen drains built and managed by Srinagar Municipality, present days “Srinagar Municipal Corporation”. Besides each house had a conservative type of latrine wherefrom the accumulated night soil was carried away by vegetable growers early morning, thereby keeping the surface drains impact free. Also the living was simple and the activities went on at a slower pace as such the quantities of solid waste and sewage generated was meager as also the population was very thin. As mentioned earlier the night soil was being utilized by the vegetable growers as manure the rest of sewage being of low quantum was absorbed by water bodies mentioned above which could maintain their normal condition under the impact of incoming sewage.

With the passage of time the population of the city increased exponentially, thereby the sewage quantum also increased proportionately inter alia to alarming proportions which is evident from the condition of water bodies. The impact of sewerage started to deteriorate the water bodies which started showing symptoms of pollution. Also the people resorted to discharge the latrines into the drains which were not actually constructed to carry the sewage. The conservative latrines were converted into flush type latrines but no septic tanks were introduced, as such the night soil which was otherwise utilized as manure found its way into drains and finally discharging into water bodies directly and the pollution levels became apparent. Moreover, due to population explosion, city expanded but in haphazard manner, as a number of new colonies came up in low lying areas and paddy fields where no drainage facilities existed or there was no way for storm water/sewage disposal.

In addition to the above, human greed is another factor in making the conditions of water bodies including Dal Lake abominable. The populations living within the lake body do implicate damages to the lake environment by way of encroachments of water expanse, creation of more and more floating gardens thereby reducing the clear water expanse thus minimizing the capacity of lake water to absorb pollutants. All this has made the atmosphere near the lake horrendous.

Government made industrious efforts in restoring the pristine glory of the lake. A step towards conservation of lake is inception of a separate authority i.e. J&K Lakes and water ways development authority which has been exclusively assigned the job of conservation of this world famous lake. After the inception of J&K LWWDA a comprehensive lake conservation project was formulated to AHEC Roorkee for 297.60 Crores. Which was then got approved from the ministry of Environment and Forests Government of India, and the work on the project is currently in progress at full throttle after its revision. Moreover a rehabilitation project for an estimated cost of over hundreds of crores is also in the progress after approval from the central Government. This project envisages removal of the population from the lake and their subsequent rehabilitation in rehabilitation colonies in the vicinity of the city in order to prevent the lake from further damages due to point source pollution and encroachments. The project also envisages acquisition of proprietary land owned by these Dal dwellers and its subsequent dredging in order to increase the area of clear water expanse.

In view of the above report it is recommended to arrange frequent public awareness programmes through to both print as well electronic media to make the populace aware of environmental hazards due to human interference.

Er. Mehraj Bhat is an Executive Engineer