An expert panel has cautioned that Dal Lake will not survive beyond 30 years if its existing condition will not improve and recommended slew of measures for its conservation.
In its report to the High Court, a four member committee of experts (COE) said that if the situation continued with "business as usual", the lake will not survive beyond 30 years maximum.
The committee has presented its recommendations by way of actionable points as short term, medium term and long term.
Underscoring that the short term recommendations call for urgent action and brook no further delay, the committee has recommended that these can be implemented within next six months.
The medium term recommendations, the panel said, require more procedures to be completed and hence would require about six to nine months for implementation.
According to the expert panel, the long term recommendations not only require more time (up to one year) but also major coordination and source substantial funds for their implementation. In its first report, the committee has made a slew of short term recommendations that need to be implemented without any delay which, it said, can lead to perceptible improvement in the management and protection of the lake.
The panel said that after first hand evidence and interaction with a host of experts, both scientific and technical, officials at every level, non-state actors, residents and other stakeholders it was convinced that if the situation continued with "business as usual" the lake will not survive beyond 30 years maximum. "This is corroborated in the vision document as well and is also opinion of the majority of the experts,".
The continued existence of the Dal lake, the committee said, is imperative for climatological, ecological, economic and socio-cultural reasons. The panel indicated that the Dal is the epicenter and pride of Kashmir as tourists visit Kashmir only for glimpse of this lake to admire its beauty and take a ride on its once expanse of clean waters.
The committee held that the flow of pollutants into the lake has continued unrestricted for so long now that it has turned the lake into a congested sludge-filled waste infested body. "If the Dal is to be saved, criminal activities need to stop and stop at the earliest".
After observing the ills plaguing the Dal, the committee recommended that present J&K Lakes and Waterways Development Authority be empowered and made accountable. The Panel said the Authority is not accountable.
The expert panel has said that the floating gardens have been creeping into more and more lake surface over a period of time.
Pointing out that the cultivation of vegetables inside the lake involves use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides whose remnants get released into the lake, the panel has recommended that in the interest of the lake, the cultivation of the vegetables within the lake needs to be stopped completely
"The details of the families exclusively dependent on vegetable cultivation were not made available by LAWDA which the Authority needs to draw out and implement a plan to rehabilitate such families providing the avenues for gainful employment including agriculture. The ceasing of the vegetable cultivation and the rehabilitation of the growers need to be done simultaneously over the next three months".
The panel has recommended that sewage effluents from commercial establishments—hotels, lodges, restaurants, and shops that are releasing sewage into the Dal lake, directly or through the Nallahs be stopped.
"Each of these commercial establishments be issued notice by LAWDA asking them to make technically suitable and environment friendly arrangements for treatment of sewage and sullage (grey water) within their premises without releasing any sledge into the Dal or in any Nallah that flows into the Dal or any other lake.
They may be given a maximum time of three months time to get this done.
"Any violation of these directions by the commercial establishments shall attract heavy penalty commensurate with the establishment turnover and under no circumstances less than Rs 50000. In addition to immediate shutdown of the unit," the panel said.
The panel recommended that the catchment areas of the Dal are cleaned up in such a manner that neither sewage or sludge nor residual chemical fertilizers and pesticides are allowed to flow into the Dal lake. "Technical and scientific experts in LAWDA may be assigned specific locales to generate awareness and enable farmers to shift to organic farming over a period of next 4 months".
Observing that each Houseboat on an average has a carrying capacity of 16 tourists and the need to be fitted with bio-digester, the committee said "these bio digesters in the houseboats should be undertaken at government cost but its further maintenance and management should be at the cost of the houseboat owner".
About solid waste management, the panel said that a system to segregate the garbage at the source may be introduced at once within one month in and around the Dal lake.
The committee members comprise Dr Nivedita P Haran, Dr Mangu Singh and MC Mehta.