Largest Fresh Water Lake Shrinking
Iftikhar Ashraf/ Shafat Farooq (Kashmir Monitor)
Bandipora: Wullar Lake also known as Asia’s largest fresh water lake is craving for attention as the illegal encroachments galore on the banks of the lake these days with the officials turning deaf ears to the repeated warnings of the experts. Unabated encroachment is going on right under the nose of Wullar Mansbal Development Authority (WMDA) and the state forest department in Bandipora district.
Locals said both the departments which are at the helm and have the powers to dismantle the illegal constructions are passing on the buck to each other due to which during the past year hundreds of houses have been constructed on the peripheries of the lake. “Forest dept and WMDA are caught at loggerheads over the constructions and the conservational of the lake. With both of them claiming of not having the mandate to take action against the encroachers,” locals said.
Locals said the banks of Wullar Lake from Watlab, Sopore, Garoora- Sadorkoot, Dachina and numerous blocks of Hajin sumbal Bandipora are presenting the deplorable condition of the lake and at places the lake has been filled with mud to be used for agricultural purposes, while at other places willow trees have been planted and houses are being constructed.
“Government of J&K had engaged renowned international agency named Wetland International to chalk out the strategy for the conservation of the Wullar Lake. The Wetland International- South Asia submitted its final report to the government of J&K in June 2007. The agency in its report had advised the state government to relocate the people living on the banks of the lake,” sources said adding “The relocation of the people from the banks can be a big achievement in conserving the lake but the officials of both the departments are not taking any action against the violators,” sources said.
They said the report had recommended the establishment of Wullar Development Authority but even after almost six years the government is yet to establish it.
The report had also asked for the relocation of the bank dwellers so that further deterioration of the lake can be stopped and its restoration speeded up. But on contrary the construction of new houses along the banks is going on unabated which raises serious questions regarding the functioning of the WMDA and the forest department. “Just below the Wullar Vantage Park at Garoora constructions of new houses is going on with full speed and there seems to be no one to stop these constructions,” one of the locals Abdul Raheem said.
The state government earlier this year had said that Rs 120 crore have been sanctioned by the Central government under the 13th Finance Commission for the conservation of the water body in Bandipora district and a Wullar Lake Development Authority will be constituted for taking comprehensive measures for its preservation.
When contacted, Chief Executive Officer, Wullar-Mansbal Development Authority Nazir Ahmed said, “As far as conservation and action against encroachments are concerned it comes under the domain of forest department, our role has been reduced to just develop tourist infrastructure like parks and huts,” Nazir said.
However, despite repeated attempts no official from the forest conversation department was available for the comments.