9 October 2004
The Daily Excelsior
Jammu: Concerned citizens, bureaucrats and the judiciary are all worried about the deterioration of Wullar, Asia's largest fresh water lake, in the Kashmir Valley. Like everything else, it has also been neglected during the long spell of terrorism. Of all the water bodies, this has been perhaps the worst affected. For one thing its huge and impressive expanse notwithstanding it lies in one corner and as it happened its surroundings were infested by the militants of all hues making it virtually inaccessible for even its caretakers. The Lake's other big problem is that it has, among its big sources of supply, the Jhelum which carries along with it the sewage and other waste from the Valley. Plans have been afoot to divert the inflow of domestic effluents from the thickly-populated adjoining towns of Sopore and Bandipore but evidently they are slow in creating a visible impact. Silt and weed as a result are normal occurrences. The increase in human settlements on all sides has put additional burden in the absence of adequately planned sanitation measures. Its catchment area is naturally degraded. Of the total about 1,14, 512 hectares catchment zone an alarming 56 per cent has suffered erosion three-fourth of it severely. An allied threat is that since this territory includes paddy fields the use of fertilisers, although unavoidable, is having its own adverse affect on the quality of the Lake water. Not surprisingly, therefore, the grandeur of Wullar has lost its glory to a large extent. The old- timers can vouch for the sordid spectacle that its considerable part has been encroached upon. According to an extensive report in this newspaper, its area has been reduced by more than 100 sq kilometres during the last about four decades - from 202 sq kilometres in 1961 to 102 sq kilometres in 1992 and is estimated to be only 80 sq kilometres presently. At an altitude of 1580 metres, Wullar has been formally declared a wetland of national importance and is recognised as one of the two most important lakes in this State, the other being in the trans-Himalayan picturesque region of Ladakh. This is why its plight invites constant attention. This does not mean that the State Government has not been aware of its responsibilities. It has a well-intentioned Wullar development project on hand. Since the entire State apparatus has been virtually rebuilt in the post-1996 scenario in particular the official machinery has to per force adopt a multi-pronged strategy the first priority of which still remains the restoration of normalcy. At the same time, the need to rescue our precious natural reservoirs can hardly be over-emphasised. In its shrunken condition, Wullar has resources enough to supply between 60 and 70 per cent of the Valley's fish, apart from the delicious water nut and the lotus stem popularly known as mouth- watering 'nandroo'. It is nobody's case that the persons who matter are in the dark about the steps that they must take to save the Lake. All that they should do is to find time and spare funds for this significant exercise. They should secure the help of the inhabitants around the Lake for stalling the discharge of the filth into it. One is sure that the ordinary citizens would be extremely happy to contribute their bit in this behalf. After all, it is their treasure. The temptation to relax should be resisted in this case till the objective is achieved and the tourists begin driving around the massive and captivating Wullar in large numbers as they would do in the none-too-distant past.