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Restoring the Dal lake to its original glory

Last updated on: July 1, 2009 

Restoring the Dal lake to its original glory

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Mukhtar Ahmad in Srinagar

The Dal Lake -- a veritable symbol of Kashmir -- is fighting for its very existence.

The lake has shrunk to one-third of its original area in less than three decades because of encroachments, siltation and discharge of effluents into the lake by thousands of commercial and private establishments and also discharge from hundreds of floating houseboats, which are anchored in the middle of the lake.


Image: The picturesque Dal lake, now filled with weeds
Photographs: Fayaz Kabli/Reuters
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Restoring the Dal lake to its original glory

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Hundreds of houses located within the lake are also the cause of its immense degradation.

The lake, lassoed by a circular road and the Zabarwan mountain range, is not only a major tourist attraction but also a source of sustenance for thousands of people living in and around the lake, who own houseboats or grow vegetables on the floating gardens.


Image: A view of a defunct weed removing machine inside the lake
Photographs: Fayaz Kabli/Reuters
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Restoring the Dal lake to its original glory

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A complete eco-system in itself, the lake is right now locked in a bitter struggle for survival, with state and central governments pumping in huge funds to save this heritage water body.

Image: From Mughal emperors to George Harrison, iconic figures have enjoyed the lake's idyllic stillness
Photographs: Danish Ismail/Reuters
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Restoring the Dal lake to its original glory

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The famed Mughal Gardens of Nishat and Shalimar, in effect, rise from the lake's shores.

Coming to the lake's rescue, the central environment ministry has decided to pump in Rs 1100 crore for retrieval of the lake and to restore it to its pristine glory.

Image: Kashmiri workers manually remove weeds from the polluted lake. The lake, which once covered 30 sqkm has shrunk to half that size over the past four decades
Photographs: Fayaz Kabli/Reuters
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Restoring the Dal lake to its original glory

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State Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and Union Minister for Environment and Forest Jairam Ramesh had an aerial survey of the lake a couple of weeks ago to assess the state of its health.

Image: Kashmiri youth practise kayaking on the lake waters
Photographs: Fayaz Kabli/Reuters
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Restoring the Dal lake to its original glory

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Promising the Centre's full support in protecting the state's environment and forests, Ramesh said 40 per cent of the work on the Rs 300 crore Dal Cleaning Project has been accomplished, and that the remainder will be completed within the next two years.


Image: Small boats tied to the jetty at the Dal lake
Photographs: Fayaz Kabli/Reuters
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Restoring the Dal lake to its original glory

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Giving a detailed overview of the prestigious Dal lake restoration plan, Ramesh said after jointly surveying the lake with the chief minister he realised that the Dal was not only a lake that needed to be cleansed but an eco and a social system that embedded large number of wetlands and nearly 10,000 families.


Image: Tourists take a boat ride on the Dal Lake
Photographs: Fayaz Kabli/Reuters
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Restoring the Dal lake to its original glory

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In Phase I, the central government has funded hte entire Rs 300 crore for cleaning the project. While visiting the lake, I have observed that a large section of the lake has been cleaned. The state government has presented a comprehensive proposal of Rs1100 crore to save the Dal lake's ecosystem by cleaning and the rehabilitation of 10,000 families. We need to find the remaining Rs.800 crore for resettlement and rehabilitation of the Dal dwellers," Ramesh said. 

Image: A breath-taking view of the Dal Lake
Photographs: Danish Ismail/Reuters
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