Taking care of our lakes

Which department takes care of which lake should be made clear
Wular lake in north Kashmir's Bandipora district.
Wular lake in north Kashmir's Bandipora district.Mubashir Khan for Greater Kashmir

J&K being a Himalayan region, is gifted with beautiful valleys and lakes. While in Kashmir valley, we have Dal, Nigeen, Aanchar, Khushal Sar, Gilsar, Wular and  Manasbal lakes, there are also other wetlands of immense ecological importance in other divisions of J&K.  In Jammu division, Mansar Surinsar are the major water bodies. Logically all these lakes should have been under a single administrative Department but the case is not so.

J&K LCMA, earlier Lakes and Water Ways Development Authority, was established in 1997 for conservation of water bodies in Kashmir but the said authority has confined its activities to Dal and Nigeen lakes. One fails to understand if the authority looks after only Dal and Nigeen lakes why has the authority been given a pan J&K name? It is high time that this is rectified and the authority is suitably renamed matching its area of operations. To a common man, it appears that this authority controls all water bodies in J&K, given its current name. The said authority comes under the administrative control of Urban Development Department.

As has been reported in Greater Kashmir many times, no authority is looking after Aanchar, Gilsar and Khushal Sar lakes all located in the capital city. Although an NGO, NLCO has been actively carrying out the cleanliness drives for the twin Lakes of Khushal and Gilsar under mission EHASASS, need of the hour is that LCMA takes over these three waterbodies in Srinagar city to free these lakes from encroachments; with the support of law enforcement agencies and accelerate conservation efforts.

As for other lakes in rural Kashmir, we have a curious case with Wular Lake, currently claimed by two administrative Departments.

In 2007, Wular Manasbal Development Authority was established for conservation of the twin lakes of Wular and Manasbal. But sadly the authority looks after Manasbal lake only. Just to stake its territorial claim, a cafeteria has been renovated and made functional at Watlab Sopore near PWD's Rest House towards the western  shore of Wular Lake by the said authority. When contacted, Chief Executive of the Wular Manasbal Development Authority confirmed that the authority does not carry out any conservation activity in Wular lake. The said authority falls under the administrative control of Tourism Department.

Again in 2012, Wular Conservation and Management Authority, WULCMA was formed specifically for the lake. Sadly the same authority has confined its operations to eastern part of this vast lake falling in Bandipore district. No major works done in the western area of the lake falling in Baramulla district. The said authority comes under the administrative control of Forests, Ecology and Environment Department. Under the given circumstances, the lake should be separated from Wular Manasbal Development Authority and given in toto to Wular Lake Conservation and Management Authority, WULCMA for its effective conservation and management.

Nobody even knows which authority is looking after the important wetlands like Hokersar, Hygham and Shalbug. However, in case of Surinsar and Mansar, located in Udhampur district, conservation measures are being carried out by Wild life Department which again falls under the administrative control of Forests, Ecology and Environment Department.

Unless our water bodies are not owned by the appropriate Departments, even volunteer efforts to conserve these bodies by individuals and general public won't bear fruit. It's time that these bodies are freed from encroachments and that is possible only through determined administrative efforts.

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