Srinagar: Lack of sustained conservation measures by the government is affecting the fragile eco-system of Chuntkul, the main outflow channel of Dal lake.
Chuntkul acts as a catalyst in maintaining the water budget of Dal’s ecosystem as its surplus waters flows through it into river Jhelum through Ram Munshi Bagh and Gaw Kadal.
However, in absence of sustained conservation, Chuntkul has been defaced by weeds, garbage and unabated pollution.
The eight islands of Chuntkul popularly known as Chinar Bagh were part of Kashmir’s rich culture and a favorite spot of British. Due to its serene ambience, Chuntkul had emerged as a preferred camping site and fishing spot for foreign tourists.
Impressed by Chuntkul’s beauty, the India Council of Cultural Relations had organised a camp for students of 25 countries in 1960s. Owing to the natural beauty of Chuntkul and Chinar Bagh, the then Prime Minister of the erstwhile State, Bakshi Ghulam Muhammad used to encourage tourism and cultural promotional activities by participating in them.
However, after the filling of Nallah Mar canal, which snaked through the Old City, Chuntkul emerged as main outflow channel of Dal lake. In view of environmental and tourism potential, the then authorities used to undertake regular cleaning and dredging of Chuntkul.
With the passage of time, Chuntkul since the early 1980s was gradually encroached by way of unbridled construction of hutments and concrete structures. In 2007, the authorities launched a drive to demolish the structures.
The High Court, monitoring the restoration of Dal Lake, has taken strong note of Chuntkul’s deterioration and ordered demolition of all structures there and rehabilitation of the inhabitants.
Finally, the authorities undertook the demolition up to SRTC Bridge, but left the illegal hutments on the channel at Barbarshah and Gaw Kadal untouched.
Vast stretch of water expanse of Chuntkul from Ram Munshi Bagh and Gaw Kadal have been covered by weeds. Besides tons of garbage has accumulated across Chuntkul and beneath Dalgate via-duct. Besides pumping stations behind Kashmir Golf Club and Barbarshah pump drainage water of adjoining areas into Chuntkul severely affecting its flora and fauna.
“Accumulation of garbage in Chuntkul near Gaw Kadal gate has made our lives miserable due to pungent smell emanating from it. Till few decades ago, Chuntkul had crystal clear waters and was favourite fishing spot of locals and foreign tourists, but now it has turned into a cesspool,” said Ali Muhammad, a local.
Environmentalists maintain that restoration of Chuntkul is imperative for overall health of Dal Lake.
“Conservation of Chuntkul must be launched immediately. The channel needs to be dredged and cleaned. Authorities must carry sustained and scientific flushing of Dal Lake through Chuntkul to dilute concentration of nutrients,” said noted environmentalist Ajaz Rasool, who is also a hydraulic engineer.
Environmentalists state that Chuntkul is not only an outflow channel but part of Dal Lake’s eco-system and should be treated at par with the conservation of the famous water body.
“Stagnation of Azolla and weeds in Chuntkul has triggered perennation in the water ferns which if left unattended will not only raise the lake’s bed but drastically affect its flora and fauna,” they added.
Dr Bashir Ahmad Bhat, Vice Chairman, J&K Lake Conservation and Management Authority told Greater Kashmir that efforts are on to restore glory of Chuntkul.
“We have pressed two Truxors into Chuntkul to undertake cleaning of its surface. Though there are some pockets in the channel which are engulfed by weeds but we will gradually remove these. We will deploy more machines and men to full clean Chuntkul and maintain its hydrology,” Bhat added.