Dal Lake gets dull as waste dumping goes on

“Perhaps in the whole world, there is no corner as pleasant as the Dal Lake,” said Sir Walter Lawrence in his book ‘Valley of Kashmir’.
But today, the Dal Lake, which used to be the top attraction for tourists in Kashmir, has turned into a dumping ground for tonnes of waste and sewage.
The rising pollution and high-nutrient load continues to flow and gather on the surface of the water, which locals used for drinking decades ago. Boatmen and houseboat owners say the lake is no more soothing to the eyes.
“Successive governments have been making tall claims that the lake will be cleaned and it will be preserved, but it is only getting worse day by day,” said Farooq Ahmad, a houseboat owner.
Bashir Ahmad (45), another boatman, who has been working for more than two decades, says the lake used to be crystal clear, but sewage, which comes from many localities, has caused its “death”.
“The sewage is directly being dumped into the lake. The government is not sincere. It is not just the lake which is dying; our livelihood is dying too,” he said, as hundreds of boatmen and houseboat owners are dependent on the lake for their livelihood.
Life has become difficult for the Dal dwellers too. Residents say they are facing health risks.
“We are not able to breathe freely anymore. Our children fall sick as the water has become toxic,” said Malla Begum (55), a lake dweller.
The Jammu and Kashmir High Court has passed a number of directives to the authorities for the conservation of the lake, but not much has changed on the ground. A PIL filed in 2002 is still pending.
On October 2 last year, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti had visited the interiors of the lake, expressing her disappointment over the pollution and rising weed in the water.
She had said she would keep on monitoring the cleaning of the lake periodically.
AR Yousuf, chairman, Scientific Advisory Committee, and also a former expert at the National Green Tribunal, described the entry of sewage into the lake as a major issue.
“The sewage and organic matter that enters the lake has deteriorated it. There is a need for a sewage treatment plant. The society also needs to work towards its conservation,” he said.
Last week, Zafar Shah, a senior counsel, told the court that cosmetic solutions won’t save the lake. “We have to come up with a permanent solution rather than taking temporary measures,” he said during the hearing of the PIL.
A research done six months ago titled ‘Water quality assessments of the Dal Lake, Jammu and Kashmir’ published in the International Journal of Scientific and Engineering Research reveals that 1,200 houseboats alone dump about 9,000 metric tonnes of waste into the lake in a year.
“Further, 15 major drains empty into the lake, bringing along 18.2 tonnes of phosphorous and 25 tonnes of inorganic nitrogen nutrients,” the research says.
It says that “every year, tonnes of nitrate and phosphate from 15 major drains of the city were drained into the lake, which causes serious ill-effects to the Dal ecosystem and its water quality”.
Ishtiyaq Ahmad, an executive engineer with the Lakes and Waterways Development Authority, says the existing five sewage treatment plants are being upgraded and the new ones are being planned.
“We are floating tenders for the upgrade of treatment plants and planning new ones. We are also in the process of approval from the administration,” he said.