The tragedy that it happens to be, 'Dal Lake'. An absolute catastrophe, a disaster and a real heartbreak it is turning to be. Dal Lake is vanishing, it is dying and we are watching its death. It has reached a stage where not even half a square kilometer of its actual fresh waters could be seen.
The rapid pace at which the lake is turning into a filthy pond takes its credit to our trifling sense of concern and ill-conceived measures undertaken over the years that seem to have only thrown packets of money into its waters. In place of the transparent layer of wavy creased waters, green film of squalid algal growth entwined with heavy weeds appears to cover the surface of the lake. In most of its parts one has to plug nostrils for the foul smell it emanates.
Dal has been milked to its limits by its exploiters. While skimming the benefits, it has pathetically been abused for short term returns. Amazingly, those who thrive on its glory are predominantly the ones harming it the most and tacitly are responsible for its reckless and silent demise.
The Dal exploiters in broader sense could be categorized into three main groups. The first group – Those who live within the waters or along the peripheries of the lake. Second – Those who have their bread and butter associated with the lake. This group can be further divided into two sub groups. (a) 'Private beneficiaries' that include the Hoteliers, Houseboat owners, Shikarawalas, Fishermen, Floating garden owners' etc. (b) 'Official beneficiaries' that includes the officials of LAWDA, Scientists, researchers, Planners, Bureaucrats, Law makers, Law Imposers, Ministers etc. And the third group includes those who silently watch it turning into a cesspool. This category of people includes the local Intelligentsia, NGO's, pressure groups and all others claiming to have alive conscience. And yes, there is one more category, the 'Small children and Student community'.
Now, who is to blame? Those who use Dal in place of the septic tanks and sewer sumps and are in constant hurry to convert every inch of it into the floating vegetable gardens and willow cultivation nurseries in their backyards. No! Ask them they will blame the second category who have lined up houseboats along the fringes of Dal Lake without any modern treatments to the waste they generate. Constructed big hotels and mansions that dispose the waste into its waters. Ferry polyethylene wrapped eatables on decorated Shikaras in its waters only to find the junk being absorbed by it. Again No!, they are after all into the commercial business activities, paying taxes and helping the government in pursuing their 'tourism sector' dreams.
It necessarily ought to be the responsibility of government! Ask the government, they have the officials in place who take big packets of salary? Come on! It has to be big 'No' again, they can't be blamed. They have done their job of planning, procuring machines, paying the consultants, installing Sewage treatment plants, though obsolete in technology and 'timely' fallen defunct, doling out land to the never ending list of Dal dwellers at Rakh Arth, who are supposed to take the 'land plot' and return with another claim to keep alive the unending chain of benefits at the cost of Dal! They have full time engineers, experts, scientists and bureaucrats in place. What else do we expect from them? The tax payers money is being utilized, effectively or ineffectively should not be a matter of discussion! And then the pressure of vote bank, how could that be shrugged away. Any small misstep would alienate the voters. Kashmir is already politically fragile, these dedicated voters could flip into stone-pelters with a small change in policy towards rescuing Dal.
It has to be the Scientist, Researchers and Planners. After all they earn their names and degrees on its study. They should not restrict their notion of responsibility to the voluminous papers, studies, dissertations and books they publish. Ask them? Again the reply is No! What do we expect them to do, dip their papers and books into its waters to clean the muck! They are after all the white clothed 'cream' of our society, their job is to put things in black and white and it is not their job to push and pursue the implementation part of their hard work.
We are in a habit of passing the buck. We know how to shed sins off our shoulders. The most responsible are the least blamed. The blame eventually boils down to the last category. We, therefore should leave the idea of salvaging Dal Lake to Children and Students. Ask them to participate in painting competitions with 'Save Dal Lake' logos, take out rallies with placards carrying the symbols of dying Dal, contribute in essay competitions take effective part in symposia and radio talks. What else could we possibly do? After all, they are the ones who are to carry the 'burden' of our misdeeds and apathy.
(The writer is a post-graduate in Management Studies from the University of Kashmir)