Bandipora: Situated in the Bandipora district of North Kashmir, Wular Lake, considered the largest freshwater lake in Asia, is also internationally significant according to Ramsar convention, due to its biodiversity. However, neglect has brought ruin to the lake even after the inception of the Wular Conservation and Management Authority (WUMCA) in 2012. Funded by the Central government, the 120 crore project seems to have failed miserably at restoring the lake to any extent. Instead of cleaning the lake, it contributes to garbage dumped along the lake peripheries with the local municipality.
The ‘callous approach’ of the local and state administration speaks volumes about the dismal state of the lake, which also serves as a source of livelihood to thousands of fishermen living around it. The local municipal committee has been dumping garbage around the lake bank since its inception, in a catchment area of around 11.25 acres. The present estimate of the quantity of garbage dumped, if the official figures are to be believed, is 630 tonnes each month, an average of 21 tonnes of garbage every day. The practice is apparently ages old: “Ever since the department came into existence in 1968, the garbage is dumped at the same place,” an official said.
Another official said that few attempts were once made to relocate the garbage dumping site after eyebrows were raised locally over its effect on the lake’s ecology, but “we faced local resentment”, the official said. The locals however blamed the authorities for the ‘lack of seriousness in conservation plan implementation’.
This, suggested the municipality official, must be rectified, with the government becoming more serious about finding alternative garbage dumping sites. “If a government office or any other building is proposed, the government purchases land to construct on it. But in this regard, they always look for government land which falls around local population. This can prove disastrous to the environment.”
Instead of finding an alternative for the garbage disposal, The Wular conservation and management authority’s contribution has instead been to ferry still more garbage for dumping on the lake banks by providing sophisticated vehicles to the municipal committee.The Vehicles with Save Wular illustrations can be seen all day ferrying garbage to the Wular Lake. Official data has it that the vehicles include cubic containers mounted on trucks and tipping autos for garbage collection and severe suction apart from the department’s own vehicles for garbage collection and disposal.
The department maintains that it is using a land-filling technique as “the treatment plant is not available” for dumping the garbage, but the dumping site narrates a disappointing tale. The stench from the heaps of garbage which lie exposed under the open sky could be sensed from afar, and most of the garbage is dumped into the rivulet nearby which ends up into Wular Lake. Also, the picturesque green pastures of ‘Zaalwan’, falling in the lake’s peripheries and are also used as a playground and grazing field, come directly in contact with the dumping site.
The visitors and locals who visit the lake often return with disappointment after noticing the grotesque surroundings of the lake and its water with covered with floating garbage. The garbage dumping site is also a disaster due to the swelling of the lake each year in the rainy season, which completely washes off the whole area, including the dumping site, into the lake. Not least to mention, the garbage includes biohazard waste discharged from hospitals too.
The authorities are now saying that “On the instructions of the state administration, an alternative site has been identified in Sumbal area of the district, the demarcation has been done. It’s a long process as many steps are to be taken for dumping purposes by high-tech machinery.” When will the project be chalked out and things begin to materialise? Nobody knows. “It indeed is a long process,” the executive engineer on the additional charge said.