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Jammu and Kashmir Lakes on Brink of Extinction

Gil sar and Kushalsar lakes in Srinagar are on the edge of extinction due to encroachment and the siltation and the authorities have turned a deaf ear to the issue.

The rapidly increasing water pollution is pushing all major lakes to the verge of extinction in Jammu and Kashmir. Disposal of raw sewage which contains polythene bags, soda cans, and animal carcasses are the primary reasons behind this problem. More than 50% of the water bodies in Srinagar have been lost during the past century.

Gil sar and Kushalsar lakes in Srinagar have been facing problems of encroachment and siltation for last few years. ‘’Our issue is that since 2016, we have been requesting the government authorities to clean and save Gil sar lake and Khushalsar lake” says Abdul Rashid, a resident of Nalabal.

Lakes and Waterways Development Authority (LAWDA) department, which is responsible for cleaning the lakes, hasn’t taken any action even after repeated requests from the locals. LAWDA  is an autonomous body that was formed in 1997 to serve as a one-point agency to look after, manage and conserve the water bodies and waterways in the state. They used machines to clean the silt from the water body but since 2016 they have not paid attention to it. The outflow channels from the lake, which pass through residential areas, emanate a foul smell much to the annoyance of residents.The channels are blocked at various places with garbage and carcasses of animals making it a health hazard.

According to locals, the lakes were once tourist attractions but now even the locals want to keep away from them given their abysmal state.. Once the water level comes down in the lakes, they start to sink and lead to diseases. It has already infected people around the area and no steps were taken by LAWDA or other authorities to solve the issues. ‘’We submitted the application about the issues to Altaf Bukhari (MLA),  Crime branch and Vigilance. No one took any action’’, Abdul Rashid added. The protest conducted by locals on the issue took the problem to the next level. The authorities gave false assurance to the residents that they will clean the lakes if people do not protest. Since the authority didn’t take any action, the residents are planning to protest again.

Soura Medical Institute and LAWDA provided a report about the health hazards caused by these water bodies. Illegal construction around the lakes also affect the lakes. According to Abdul Rashid, new construction has been done under LAWDA. ‘’They took money from people and hence encroachment has taken place. If they are taking salary for this, why can’t they take action against any illegal construction? Why they can’t save these water bodies?’’ Abdul Rashid asks.

Kashmir is well known for its good number of beautiful fresh water and high altitude lakes. The centre of life for the inhabitants of the state, these lakes have been credited for the emergence of a unique culture. The indifference of government authorities and society at large is leading to degradation of water bodies in Jammu and Kashmir.

Video by Community Correspondent Nadiya Shafi

Article by Grace Jolliffe, a Member of VV Editorial Team