Kashmir valley, the word itself is laced with bewitching beauty. Sprawling green carpet, enthralling and mesmerizing peaks. The valley presents a panoramic and astonishing view – Wular lake located in northern Kashmir's Bandipora district 34 Kilometres of north of Srinagar city is one such slice. The lake is known as one of the largest fresh water lakes in Asia. Honestly speaking, this place is full of solace.
Few days back, when my village was declared an orange zone, changing its covid status from red zone, me and my colleagues decided to visit Wular lake which is a couple of kilometres away from my village & there was no other option to vent out a long lock-down frustration. However, at the entrance of the Wular Lake through Maqdamyari village the visitors are being scanned suspiciously by men in uniform because the prevailing situation.
The inner view of the lake astonished us all with majestic mountains around the lake and the scattered shores were looking rapturous and marvelous. The small water bodies were soothing. The lush greenery and infinite grasslands are enchanting. Indeed, the beauty and the freshness of the lake is unparalleled. It would not be wrong to say that the lake is emperor's own garden.
In the afternoon when the lake looks more beautiful, we took a wooden-boat for a ride to reach the other side of the lake, enjoy and discover more fascinating beauty of the lake. Fairly, it was one of the most fascinated and an unprecedented moment in my life.
It is true that Wular Lake is a breathtaking beauty, but unfortunately my recent visit to lake exposed to me the other stories. Unfortunate, that tons of solid municipal wastes from Hajin, Bandipora and Sopore have created an alarming situation against the internationally recognized and an important Ramsar site. It has become a nightmare for thousands of people whose livelihood depends on the sustainability and the survival of the lake. While taking a ride around the lake, I have seen huge polythene bags, broken glasses and plastic bottles with other environmental hazards threatening the lake. It can be rightly said that Wular is dying a slow death and both Government and the people failed to save the lake.
One report published in The Wire in 2017 revealed that "According to revenue records the total area of the lake is 130 square kilometers, but in most years, by October the lake is reduced to only approximately 24 square kilometers". This all happened due to continued shrinking, siltation and pollution and the human encroachment. The more worrying thing is that the floodwater storage capacity of the river Jhelum got mitigated in past several years and became a grave threat to millions of people in Kashmir which we all had witnessed during 2014 floods and again in 2015.
Pertinently, the lake is providing a sound economy to thousands of people & is home to migratory birds like Eurasian sparrow, black earned kite, rock dove and many other aquatic plants but unfortunately this too is decreasing now due to continuous poaching and hunting by local population and the visitors from different areas.
To save the charming beauty and the livelihood of the thousands of people, I believe the tourism department and the other government agencies should start early investments, and right interventions. Without a grain of doubt, the lake has a huge potential for tourism, Zaine Lank one of an artificial island built by Zain-ul-Abideen (Budshah) in 14th century is one of the beautiful places and with the presence of ancient temple and a masjid it can be a used as a religious tourist destination.
However, apart from religious tourism, Wular Lake has a potential for water sports, horse ridings, camping and other adventurous tourism for both domestic and foreign tourists. Like Dal Lake, Shikars can be introduced at many places in the lake. Interestingly, it was good to see how the local population of Maqdamyari village had used innovative motor-boats.
Through this article, I request the state government and the district administration Bandipora to save Wular lake from further shrinking and from municipal pollution otherwise, the day isn't far when we will be able only reading stories of Wular in books. For the survival of the lake the state government needs to implement an inclusive approach and a sustainable policy including strict laws and a huge fine against those who have turned this place into a stinking-swamp and an open dumping site for huge solid municipal waste, encroachments and poaching . It is time to preserve the charm and glory of the lake.
Javeed Bin Nabi is Post-Graduate In International Relations (Peace and Conflict Studies) IUST, Awantipora.