SRINAGAR: Underlining the importance of Wullar Lake in protecting the Kashmir valley from floods, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti today said the de-silting effort launched under the comprehensive Wullar Conservation and Management Plan needs greater impetus to increase the water holding capacity of the lake.
“The ongoing conservation and protection measures for eco-restoration of Wullar Lake, its feeder channels, associated wetlands and marshes should gain momentum in view of the devastating floods that struck Kashmir in September 2014,” the Chief Minister said while chairing a review meeting of the Wullar Conservation & Management Authority (WUCMA) here this morning.
Minister of State for Forests, Ecology & Environment, Mir Zahoor Ahmad, Advisor to Chief Minister, Amitabh Mattoo, Chief Secretary, B R Sharma, Financial Commissioner Planning & Development, B B Vyas, Principal Secretary to Chief Minister, Navin Kumar Choudhary and Principal Secretary Forests, Rakesh Kumar were present in the meeting.
The Chief Minister said Wullar Lake not only acts as a huge water storage reservoir but also provides natural way out for the excess or flood waters in the Jhelum and it needs to be protected and conserved at all costs. She said it is a wetland of international importance as it has been declared a Ramsar site for conservation.
Expressing dismay over the slow pace of conservation work, the Chief Minister called for deployment of more men and machinery on the project and accomplishing it within a set time-frame in a mission mode. She called for approaching the Dredging Corporation of India for taking up the dredging the lake on a larger scale.
The Chief Minister, however, stressed the need for creating alternative economic and employment avenues for the local population affected by the conservation project. “The local population shall have to be provided alternative employment avenues by promoting sheep farming, dairying, fisheries etc,” she said.
The meeting was informed that under the 13th Finance Commission, Rs 60 crore were sanctioned and released for taking up conservation and protection measures in Wullar Lake. “Till date, Rs 45.39 crore have been utilized for survey and demarcation, catchment conservation and water management of Wullar Lake including de-silting,” the meeting was told.
The meeting was informed that the entire periphery of the lake had been demarcated as per authentic revenue record which indicates a lake area of 130 sq kms, of which 27-square kms of lake area is critically silted. As many as 1,159 geo-tagged boundary pillars have been erected delineating the lake boundary from the adjoining areas.
The meeting was informed that dredging operations carried out within the critically silted areas of Wullar lake and vital feeder channel (Naaz Nallah) to the extent of approximately 10 lakh cubic meters has successfully been accomplished so far which has resulted in enhancement of the water holding capacity of the water body significantly over an area of more than 1 sq km. Besides, around 26,000 willow trees have been removed from the Lake area.
Measures to arrest soil erosion in the catchment area have been taken by erecting check dams and protection banks and planting over 3 lakh conifers in the adjoining forest area.
The Chief Minister also discussed future funding requirements of the project with directions to the Forest Department to submit a proposal that would ensure uninterrupted funding to accomplish the remaining operations for conservation of Wullar Lake as per the Detailed Project Report (DPR). A detailed power point presentation was made on the various activities carried out by the WUCMA during last 5-years for the long-term conservation, eco-restoration and preservation of the Wullar Lake and its associated ecosystems.
The meeting was also apprised about various steps initiated by the WUCMA to control diffused pollution to the Wullar Lake by means of direct flow of the harmful wastes and human excreta into the lake. In this regard, the Authority has, so far, provided over 45-low cost sanitation units (toilets) to the population belonging to the BPL families to maintain the sanitation of the lake. Many such units are proposed to be added during the coming years.