Saving the Dal

Saving the Dal

Srinagar City- on account of its dense and graceful water bodies- had earned the sobriquet or the moniker of the “Venice of the East”. This accrued largely from what could be called the “centre of gravity” of the various water bodies that graced the city. But, alas, while most of the tributaries and even lakes that circled and dotted Srinagar city have disappeared, now the “centre of gravity”- the Dal Lake- can also fall victim. It is a matter of fact that the Dal has, over the years, shrunk considerably. The reasons, in the main, pertain to warped and flawed urbanization, patronage politics and cronyism which allowed for the existence and development of hotels and what have you around the inner perimeter of the Dal, and the spawning of the community that sustains itself from the Dal in an unorganized, and haphazard manner, which, in turn rendered the Lake into a vast sewerage dump.  The cumulative result has been the shrinking of the Dal and its pollution given the effluents that are discharged into the lake. Identifying the structural malaises that have afflicted the Dal is the easiest bit; it would neither take specialist expertise nor deep insights into the nature of the problem. But, what is difficult is devising and instituting measures to save, conserve, and preserve the Dal. The reasons are not merely aesthetic. Yes, the Dal is a tourist attraction and the jewel of the crown of Srinagar city or even Kashmir, but more critically, the reasons to save the Dal fall into the domain of the ecological. If the shrinkage of the Dal takes place at the current rate or rate averaged out over the years , taking some benchmark year as a baseline, then there are reasons for alarm. An ecological tragedy can befall Srinagar and Kashmir given the multiple linkages of the Dal with other natural phenomena. An honest appraisal of the lake’s condition would suggest that the Dal cannot realistically be restored to its pristine glory. It, however, can be saved. The question is how? One commonsensical starting point would be to stop further encroachment of the lake. This could be followed by devising measures and instituting them so that the Dal dwelling community is incentivized to keep the lake clean. This could entail sensitizing the community to the pitfalls of further degradation coupled with strong disincentives which would mean heavy penalties for this degradation. The third, step, not necessarily sequential, could entail hiring foreign expertise to clean up the Dal from algae and other pollutants and thus restore its state of cleanliness and purity. There are other measures that could be in the nature of follow up. But, key to all these would be a stakeholder approach wherein society views itself as a major partner in saving the Dal. To all these potential measures, time is key. Let then haste be made slowly and the Dal saved!

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