(Ms. Monisa Qadri was born and raised in Srinagar. She has been a Mallinson Girl and studied bio-chemistry at the Women's College, Srinagar. She has studied mass communications and journalism from Kashmir University, and works in the Corporate Communications and Public Relations Department of the J&K Bank. She writes as a freelancer.)
Is Dal conservation an exercise in futility?
Just imagine Kashmir without Dal Lake. It will be a sight of a lifetime. Seems unbelievable? Sounds shocking? Or simply appears evil? Well! Well! Well (you won no prizes for this one); none of the above, for proof is there! Never have we seen people calling for the extinction of Dal, but this one surely does. One only needs the eye of a dreamer. And that is being practical enough to see an opportunity in disguise.
They have all been chanting 'Save Dal', 'Dal lake Conservation Project', 'Dal Conservation Fund', 'Lake Preservation'. Also, it has been categorized under the National Lake Conservation Plan. Experts have prepared plenty project feasibility reports for the conservation and restoration of Dal Lake. But these drives are turning out to be nothing more than Alladin's lamp for some NGOs, bureaucrats and politicians, from there to here.
Dal is a water body, claiming 12 square kms of land, though it spread over an area of 75 sq. kms in 1200 A.D but by 1980s, only 25 sq. km survived. Most of its area has been converted into floating gardens. Number of residential buildings, restaurants and hotels has come up along the banks. And now it is a reservoir of weeds, germs, motherhouse of eutrophication and dumping zone for the solid and other waste. Interestingly, we have something called the 'solid waste management programme', attribute this to authorities, they say it.
Over the years, the entire ecosystem of Dal Lake has changed. It has become shallow due to siltation and accumulation of debris. Many undesirable changes in the structure of biological communities have resulted, adversely affecting the biotic components and some important species have either declined or completely disappeared. The water quality has deteriorated considerably with increasing Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD) and falling Dissolved Oxygen (DO) levels below permissible limits. Various parameters already exceed the permissible limits proposed by WHO. The overall lake ecosystem has become poor in quality and is posing health hazards to the Dal dwellers and others.
Sewage of Dal peripheries will continue to flow into the lake. We have the famous Acchan dumping ground and Dal is in the process of emerging as a better option, if we continue with our 'save Dal drive'. The plan for the construction of sewerage system, including pump stations at Saida Kadal, Naidyar, Gurpora, Daultabad, Abi Nowpora, Dalgate, Hazratbal, Nishat and Habak Nehru Park face dearth of funds. Besides the monetary aspect, the sustainability appraisals and Environmental Impact Assessment of sewerage treatment plants seems questionable.
Last year we saw trees being cut down in the interiors of the Lake, around Saida Kadal and other areas and thank god, with the blessings of the creator, they are in full bloom this year. This, and there is more. We tried hard to conserve and preserve and save this lake, but all in vain. Crores have been spent, and also on paper. Numerous seminars, debates and marches have been held for the cause. Organizations, associations, students and individuals have been coming together to support it, but nothing could be achieved so far.
So, why engage in the futile exercise anymore. Conserve it? Well! Rather why not try the other way round. Help it die soon enough and bid farewell to dull Dal. This is a chance that would open a womb of possibilities. They are countless. Once you start and you can't stop thinking about them and soon you will be able to visualize the brighter side to it. It will benefit the real-estate business greatly. The land price woes too would be addressed. It would kick-start the construction of fly-overs, mega stores and all those giant malls that we have not had here before. Forget the Piscean breed; imitation category is in, we can have artificial habitats and zoos. Who knows there might even come-up a water kingdom of 'brand Kashmir'.
There seem to be never-ending problems when it comes to Kashmir—from dwelling to livelihood issues, from faith to identities; from life to death. Day in and day out we hear announcements about the rehabilitation of the people living in the surrounding hamlets and houseboats, around notified areas, and of course around shrines and monuments and road-widening proposals. But, the problem remains the same—that of land. Not to worry, we have land under Dal. Our "leaders" and "religious heads" fight over, 'who is to offer Namaz where?' and to whom does Eid-Gah belong to? Dal has solutions for this too. Now everyone can possess an Eid-Gah of his or her own.
In order to conserve this water body, attempts and efforts that we have tried our hands at, prove that nothing has been possible so far, and there is no hope for future too. Perhaps converting this 12 sq.km water body into a land mass would be an easier option and benefit all of us. After all, that is the only thing we crave for.