Srinagar: Jammu and Kashmir High Court has asked the Lakes and Waterways Development Authority (LAWDA) to conduct a survey to find out exact number of points around Dal lake where from untreated runoffs or discharge empty into the water body, a flagship of Kashmir’s tourism.
For this purpose, a division bench headed by Justice Hasnain Massodi asked LAWDA’s vice-chairman to co-opt the faculty and students from Department of Environmental Science Kashmir University and volunteers from other NGOs with the exercise.
“A comprehensive report regarding source points with all necessary details of untreated urban and agriculture runoffs that flow into lake shall be submitted within three weeks,” the court said.
The report, it said, shall indicate average volume of untreated discharges added to the lake per month.
“The report shall be appended with a detailed map to elucidate the report and identify source of water pollution to lake with necessary precision,” the bench, also comprising Justice Bansi Lal Bhat, added.
The direction by the bench followed its observation that exact statistics would enable it to workout number of additional Sewerage Treatment Plants (STPs) required to be installed so that only treated urban and agricultural runoffs and other discharges find way into the lake.
Earlier, the court observed that excessive and uncontrolled growth of weeds on the lake bed has contributed in a big way to its decay and degradation.
“Unprecedented weed growth is attributed to free flow of untreated discharges, like sewage, urban and agriculture runoffs, waste water from residential and commercial buildings into the lake. At present only four to five STPs are operational around Dal lake, though without attaining their optimum operational capacity,” the court said, observing that a large part of urban runoffs and other effluents that flow directly into the lake does not pass through the STPs.
“Urban and agricultural runoffs as we are aware are rich in nitrogen and phosphorous. These added to lake water without treatment therefore act as fertilizers for weeds growing on the lake bed.”
On one hand LAWDA spends millions of rupees on de-weeding operations, manual as well as mechanical, and on the other hand thousands of tons of manure and fertilizers, in shape of urban and agricultural runoffs, are allowed to flow into water body to promote and enhance growth of weeds on the lake bed, the court said.
“We cannot restore quality of lake water and help lake regain glory it once enjoyed, unless and until we have a clear idea about points at which untreated urban and agriculture runoffs and other discharge flow into lake and the average volume of such effluents flowing into Dal Lake per month,” the court said.
With such statistics available, the court said, “we can conceive a plan to have a deep drain constructed around the lake (wherever not constructed) parallel to offshore and onshore road, connect it with all the STPs, operational on date and proposed to be constructed, or ensure that runoffs are drained away through deep drain so constructed and the lake saved from addition of untreated discharges rich in nitrogen and phosphorous.”
The court said that it needs to be pointed out that in “good old days”, before massive urbanization, a large area around Dal lake was marshy and comprised of wetlands.
“These areas served as detoxifying fields. The urban and agriculture runoffs would first flow into large wetlands marshy areas and only after weeds growing in such areas would detoxify the water, it would flow into Dal lake,” the court said, observing that the marshy lands around the lake have been filled up and converted into residential and commercial sites.
“The runoffs, therefore, directly flow into the lake and act as fertilizers for weeds growing on the lake bed, making de-weeding operations meaningless.”
The court was hearing a PIL filed by Sheikh Tahir Iqbal, then a law student, in July 2002 to save the Dal lake.
In another direction, the court asked state government to provide within a week Personal Security Officer to Abdul Wahid, who is chairman of the Court Committee on Lake.
Wahid, a retired Principal District and Sessions Judge and former Director State Judicial Academy, had submitted that he finds it difficult to carry out direction given from time to time by the court in absence of services of PSO.
The court also allowed submission by Advocate General M I Qadri, seeking week’s time to file detailed report in compliance of previous order.