The Dal Lake in Kashmir is deteriorating day by day but its size has remained the same (25sq.km.) from the last many decades due to the conservation methods taken by Jammu and Kashmir Government. Many institutions like University of Kashmir, SKUAST-K, and Lakes and Waterways Development Authority (LAWDA) are working to save the Dal Lake from its unknown and silent death. Unfortunately researchers couldn't develop any modern method to curb the pollution and authorities were unable to control the encroachment of the Lake. Most work is only on papers.
Dal Lake receives waters into its Hazratbal basin from Marsar, an oligotrophic water body through two main sub water sheds namely Dhara Danihama and Dachigam. This water along with its flow brings slit and other nutrients from the surrounding environment and adds to the Dal Lake. Moreover people now and then, in one way or the other, are creating problems for the lake.Whom should one blame? Common man who doesn't know anything about the importance of Dal Lake? Government, who is run by people which are following only their duties but have forgotten their moral responsibility? Dal dwellers who have lived there for decades and earn their livelihood on one side but on the other hand they put all the waste coming from their homes directly into the lake? Dal dwellers have made floating gardens inside the Dal which gives them livelihood on one side but also damages the Dal. People who live around the Dal Lake directly or indirectly put their runoff into the Dal lake, which causes nutrient enrichment leading to eutrofication.
Eutrofication i.e, enhancement of nutrients in Dal lake, mainly of nitrogen and phosphorus, leads to growth of phytoplanktons and zooplanktons which succeeds through ecological succession to macrovegetation. Vegetation causes further enrichment of nutrients, decreases water transparency, keeps food available for herbivores through food chain. Animals which live in Dal Lake like invertebrates and vertebrates face hindrance in movement.
Government has failed in implementing its projects properly because whatever they say theoretically is practically entirely different. Weeds and Red algal blooms have engulfed the whole Dal lake. Thick mats of macro vegetation give ugly look to Dal Lake besides affecting its micro and macro vegetation. Authorities are spending lakhs of rupees on deweeding through machines and directly by the use of man power. But will it be fruitful and how much is the question which should be asked. Around one lakh cubic meters of weeds are removed annually.
Transparency is decreasing, nutrients are being added continuously, dredging is being done periodically, deweeding is continuing from the last many years. Many native species of animals are decreasing like Schizothorax species, Botia birdi,etc. People are constructing new constructions in and around the lake.
The need of the hour is to control nutrient enhancement, curb on floating gardens and complete ban on constructions through law. The present law should be made tougher and applied practically. Modern scientific methods like animals and plants which decrease the flora and fauna scientifically e.g., grass carp, which feeds on grass, should be cultured and introduced. Water hyacinth which plays an important role in controlling water pollution should be used to control vegetation so that the Dal Lake, once known as jewel in the crown, may be saved, conserved and protected for future generations.
(The author is teaching Zoology in Degree College Bemina Srinagar)