Degradation of the Deepest Lake

Manasbal lake is considered as deepest lake in Kashmir Valley. The lake is located in Safapora town of district Ganderbal about 32 kilometers away towards North West of Srinagar city. Lake is encircled by three villages viz, Jarokbal, Kondabal (also called Kiln place) and Ganderbal. Manasbal lake, the urban valley lake has its own unique identity due to its natural view which attracts the tourists. The large growth of lotus at the periphery of the lake adds to the beauty of the clear water of the lake. The Mughal garden, called the Jaroka built by Nur Jahan overlooks the lake. The beauty of lake has attracted many royals to the lake bed. However, it is quite upsetting  to see the state of the Manasbal lake now. Untreated sewage and solid garbage from surrounding population, encroachments, fertilizers containing Nitrates and Phosphates and silt load are the main causes for degradation of water quality of the lake. Over the years, as a result of human pressure the lake has become eutrophic. The water body is virtually choked with submerged weeds particularly during summer which is the high tourist season. The mining and quarrying in this area have changed the demographic features of the lake.

The deterioration of water quality and other associated problems have reduced the recreational and aesthetic value of the lake. Some of the possible causes of deterioration of water quality of the lake include agricultural run-off and human settlements disposing sewage, besides anthropogenic stresses in the catchment. In the lake, the problem of pollution is mainly due to addition of major plant nutrients particularly Nitrogen and Phosphorus, derived from human wastes, detergents, fertilizers, agricultural activities etc. an accelerated rate. The nutrients have been chiefly responsible for an increase in organic production particularly in the form of dense macrophytic growth and the overall deterioration of water quality. The lake is plagued by several factors such as pollution, littering of non-biodegradables as well as eutrophication of its coastal periphery. The main sources of pollution are the waste water runoff from the catchment population. The Kondabal village situated on the Kondabal hill on the banks of Manasbal Lake is the place of kilns, quarries and mines. The most common occupation of the people in the Kondabal is working in the limestone quarries/ kilns of the region. This area contains huge proportion of limestone and the runoff from this hill directly pours huge quantities of calcium into the Manasbal Lake.

Various anthropogenic activities in the catchment of Manasbal have tremendous ecological and socio- economic importance, and it depicts the way people are treating the lake ecosystem. During recent years the rapid increase in population has resulted in establishment of new settlements in the catchment area of the lake. Also, the vast areas of forest were converted into agriculture and farmlands that resulted in opening up the terrestrial ecosystem, with heavy loads of nutrients leaching into the lake from the fertile top soil of the catchment area. In addition to sewage and domestic effluents from the new and expanding human settlements the runoff from fertilized agricultural land and the residual insecticides and pesticides from the arable lands and orchards fields also drain into the lake. Thus, the undesirable human activities are responsible for accelerated flow of materials from the terrestrial to aquatic portion of the watershed. These human activities not only deteriorate the water quality but also affects the aquatic life in the lake. High sediment and nutrient loads have a direct bearing on the distribution of flora and fauna. Pollution is threatening the life of aquatic flora and fauna, particularly a large variety of fish and Nadru is already endangered. The deteriorating water quality and changes in the distribution of flora and fauna have been very significantly affecting the trophic status of the lake. This has caused extinction of a fish species and an aquatic plant (Eurayle ferox) from the lake waters. The deep-water layers have become anoxic.

If people are not made aware of the situation and steps are not taken to overcome the pollution levels, then sooner or later the lake will be completely lost. A remarkable source of water and biodiversity would be lost. Hence periodic monitoring of Manasbal lake is necessary for assessing the quality of water. A well-planned strategy and action plan must be developed for the conservation and restoration of this important lake in Kashmir Himalayas.