The dying water bodies!

The land which was once the legendry Satisar may soon turn into a desert if we do not reclaim and protect our water bodies!
The dying water bodies!
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Last year in these columns the tragic state of our waterbodies was described in detail with the hope that some concrete action would beinitiated to save these. Unfortunately, nothing substantial has been achieved.Only tons upon tons of weed are being taken out. No strong and positive actionis being taken to address the basic causes of pollution and encroachment of thesewater bodies. We have physically eaten away these and in many cases pollutedthese beyond redemption.

As the legend describes it, Kashmir Valley was a hugelake.  Kalhana, the author of theearliest recoded history of Kashmir, Rajtarangni, states that the valley ofKashmir was a huge lake called Satisar. The Lake was drained through the Varmulgorge by Kashyap Reshi after killing the demon Jalodbhava guarding the outlet.The draining of the Lake reclaimed the present valley of Kashmir. Thegeological findings especially the presence of Karewas (geological formationsof sedimentary clay) throughout the valley confirm this mythological belief.For thousands of years Kashmiris had the privilege of having the last remnantsof Satisar as Wular, Manasbal, Dal, and Nageen. These water bodies were ourliving heritage from the times immemorial. In fact, as per the findings atBurzhom and many other similar places, the human civilisation in Kashmirstarted on the banks of these water bodies right from the Neolithic age.

For centuries these water bodies survived and were the prideof Kashmir. Till the middle of the last century that is during the reign of theerstwhile Maharaja Hari Singh, most of the Lakes including the smaller waterbodies and even the canals of Srinagar survived and continued to exist.However, with the freedom of the sub-continent and ushering in of the popularpeoples' governments, these water bodies started slowly shrinking and evendisappearing. During the autocratic rule people respected the law and there wasno escape for violators in any field. Even most of our lush green forests alsocontinued their existence during Maharaja's reign.

It is just in last 3 to 4 decades that we, the presentinhabitants of the so called "Paradise on Earth", have (due to our insatiablematerial greed) brought these to total ruination. Three fourths of blame forruining these water bodies can be squarely placed on the local people. This isespecially true of the Dal Lake. It is immaterial as to who has done how much damage,whether these are house boat owners, hoteliers, vegetable growers, residentsinside or on the banks of the lake. Damage beyond redemption has not only beendone but is continuing on a daily basis.

As regards the role of the people entrusted with therestoration of the Lake, there can be no better judgement than that given bythe former Chief Minister Azad who publicly admitted that the Lake has become a"Money Minting Machine" for the politicians! He said so in spite of the factthat the political set up he was blaming was headed by him. The mostunfortunate part of the tragedy is that the government had woken up towards thenecessity of restoring and conserving the Lake in mid-seventies itself. Thebest ever report for the restoration and conservation of Dal Lake was preparedin 1977 by a team of New Zealand consultants (Enex Consortium). The consultantshad made some very practical recommendations for initiating measures to arrestthe further deterioration in the condition of the Lake as also to restore it toits previous glory. These measures would have stopped accumulation of nutrientsin the lake and over a period of time this would result in a net loss ofnutrients that would in turn curb weed growth and thus improve the waterquality. The Enex report provided cost estimates and based on analysis deemedthe proposed improvements economically feasible. In fact, at that time theOverseas Development Agency of U.K. and the World Bank had offered to fund therestoration of the Lake through some international agency.

The only remedy is a peoples' movement to save our heritageand the water of life. Without water there is no life. Recently, Prime MinisterNarendra Modi in his "Man ki Baat" address stressed the necessity of conservingwater. According to him in ancient India it was said that if iron is touched by"Paras" it turns into gold! But now present "Paras" is water. The water isGod's blessing. He has directed all concerned to ensure conservation of water.He has also appealed to people to make every effort to conserve every drop ofwater. It is a very good initiative. Let us hope his directions percolate downto his administration in the State and practical steps are taken not only toconserve still existing water bodies but the ones which have disappeared or atpresent are being choked are redeemed and reclaimed. It is also incumbent onthe local leadership to start a mass movement both for conservation of waterbodies and reclamation of the dying and the already dead water bodies! In thealternative, due to the global climate change the Paradise on Earth may turninto a desert like the Sahara desert!

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