Wular is the largest fresh water lake in Asia. According to the revenue records, Wular is spread over an area of 130 sq. km but has undergone massive siltation, encroachment and pollution in recent years.
According to a study by Wetland International, 32,000 families including 2,300 fisher households living on Wular’s shores depend on it for livelihood. The water bodies including Wular, have served the people since ages as sources of livelihood and served the region ecologically.
Economically, the people here have been dependent on these water bodies as many people living within or alongside these water bodies are earning their lively hood from these water sources alone.
The water bodies even now produce a total annual fish production of 20,000 tons and more than 30,000 people are directly involved in fishing, 14,000 of them with registered licenses.
Not only fishing, but various other resources are fetched from these water bodies and lakhs of people are earning their bread and butter directly from these water bodies.
However, the water bodies in the State have come under severe pressure. Rapid increase in population has resulted not only great stress on consumption of water but its pollution has also increased manifold. Keeping this in mind the government had come out with conservation projects. But so far the main concern was the preservation of Dal Lake alone.
Interestingly, the central government has poured enormous funds in the project of conservation of Dal Lake. To what extent Dal has been conserved or will the governments intervention serve any purpose, only time will tell.
But, recently voices have been raised about the pollution and shrinking of Wular Lake also. This has forced the authorities to address the issue. There are plans to remove over two million willow trees from the lake, to achieve hydrological and ecological balance. According to a study by Wetland International, willow plantation in the lake through government-sponsored schemes in the 1970s has led to fragmentation of the wetland, rapid siltation and deterioration in water quality.
We have got the inputs that the state Cabinet has decided to constitute a Group of Ministers under the chairmanship of the Forest Minister. The GoM will examine the proposal submitted by the Forest, Ecology & Environment Department to the Cabinet regarding accord of administrative approval and acceptance of the single tender for execution of work for dredging and strengthening embankment of Wular Lake besides removal and grubbing of willow and other undesirable tree species from it and its feeder channels under the Comprehensive Management Action Plan.
The government’s move deserves appreciation as it is trying to address the causes that have led to massive shrinkage of the Wular lake. But on the same page we wish that the government will try not to repeat the same old mistakes that were committed while addressing the conservation of the Dal lake.
The government should try to avoid repeating the blunder of handing over the project to LAWDA as after years of toil and investment, the Wular too will be craving for some improvement.