Lakes crop up in areas lying low to their surroundings with almost hillocks, hills, forests, mountains standing on one of their sides. The water oozing from any small springs interconnecting one another and some amount of rain or snow melted water percolating through the porous layers of the earth joining together make up a lake with a due outlet to maintain its level. Mansbal lake in the district of Ganderbal is one such wonderful lake of the three famous lakes of Dal in Srinagar and Wular in the district of Bandipora. This four kilometer long east-west and one kilometer wide in north- south lake is at a distance of 32 kilometers from Srinagar at the tail end of the district Ganderbal 25 kilometers distant to the district of Bandipora sharing its borders at Safapora in the north-west. Unlike the most attended to and encroached upon Dal lake, Mansbal lake though smallest of three is topping in purity of water with retention of much of its erstwhile physical shape and borders for having witnessed comparatively less and little incidents of encroachments till date. Thinly populated periphery, removal of all the eastern dwellings & three-fourth of Gratabal residency, more than half of its circumference free of human hamlets on west and north-western borders being the reasons. The lake is mentioned to be the deepest fresh water lake in Asia.
It is believed to be fed by 1,200 springs sprouting from within giving it a permanent life line with rain & snow waters flowing from the catchment areas adding to its level strength. The lake being calm with no accident rate is easily navigable for swim and boat/shikara rides round the year. To the south of the lake lies the crescent shaped Kondabal hillock (known as Ahtuang) famous for lime stone quarries (Kondas) with appertinent populous Kondabal village drawing its name and to the north are villages/mohallas of Gratabal, Jaroka Bagh – a Mughal Garden built by Queen Noor Jehan, Bagwan mohalla, Fargard Mohalla followed by Safapora ticking up for township with confluence of Bandipora-Safapora-Sumbal-Srinagar and Bandipora-Safapora-Ganderbal-Srinagar roads. Safapora derives its name from Baghe-Safa built by Jehangir- the 16th century Mughal Emperor of Kashmir. The east has beautiful landscaping thrills with aquatic sports & other sportive activities with a recently renovated age old rest house located at what is known as Qazi Bagh in the foot hold of another hillock (Diyalar Mode) with vintage point over viewing the four directions. Qazi Bagh also has the same antecedents as mentioned above. In the south-eastern there is also a diamond shaped sculptural stone about 10 feet high with almost same girth and a mosque adjacent to it. The west with some patches of willow trees and marshes provide vast openness with its outlet passing through Nainara village of Sumbal tehsil wherefrom it transcends into river Jhelum to embrace its eldest brother Wular lake after traversing a distance of about 12 kilometers in the district of Bandipora.
This 13 to 40 feet deep lake with a shore length of about 11 kilometers provides livelihood to thousands of people through out the year through boat/shikara rides, fishing, angling, extraction of water/lotus nuts etc. The lake has all weather connectivity from the end points of Safapora, Kondabal, Pattermulla and Nisbal from district Bandipora and is mostly visited on Sundays. It serves as a penstock to two water supply schemes one each on its north & south banks augmenting the drinking water (categorized as soft water) facilities to areas of Safapora, Chewa, Chandergeer and Nisbal, Kondabal, Zazna etc, respectively. Apart from lake economics and entertainments, its northern bank shoulders the lighthouse of Government Higher Secondary School Safapora in tranquil atmosphere with a fascinating overlook of the lake refreshing every moment the inmates preparing for higher levels of education & learning. Adjacently situated is the P-4 Basic Seed Station Farm of Central Government spread over hundreds of kanals of land adding to lush green beauty of the lake/ surroundings. The lake has a centripetal gravitation on religious counts also. On the northern bank crested with distinctive points of attraction is a beatific mausoleum of a great saint known as Syed Sheikh Kamal Saheb with a graveyard in front and a cremation ground bordering the lake at a distance of some 300 yards eastward.
With the establishment of Wular and Mansbal Conservation & Management Authority (WUMCA) a fresh hope is generated. To execute the plans, cooperation from people is a must.
(The author is a former Sr. Audit Officer working as Consultant in the A.G’s Office Srinagar.)