Disturbed Wetlands of Kashmir
By : Prof. M R D Kundangar
Disturbed Wetlands of Kashmir Prof. M. R. D. Kundangar.
Wetlands are among the most productive life support systems in the world and are of immense socioeconomic and ecological importance to mankind. They are of critical importance for the survival of natural biodiversity and support high concentration of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish and invertebrates species. By virtue of natural functioning, they play an important role in water quality improvement, sediment control, oxygen production, nutrient recycling, flood control, aquifers recharging, ground water discharge, shoreline protection and stabilization of local climatic conditions.
With the advent of science and technology which led to rapid utilization of natural resources and favauored land based development large areas of wetlands were converted for agriculture and other human use. Ironically wetlands have been perceived as wastelands associated with diseases, difficulty and danger. Emphasizing the negative impacts and ignoring their importance, these habitats were considered obstacles in the path of progress and hence drained, filled, despoiled and degraded for economic gains. Although integral part of river system, wetlands have not been seriously considered as a part of water resources management. As with other elements within river basin, wetlands do not function in isolation and are highly dependent upon upstream conditions within their river basin. Changes in hydrology of the river feeding a particular wetland will inevitably have an impact on the wetlands water level regime. Their significance however, has not yet been fully understood both by our people and the Govt. authorities and treat them as wastelands which certainly are not so. The wetlands serve as the Kidneys of the planet and fulfill a wide range of essential functions that help sustain plants, animals and indeed human beings. Despite current efforts to understand and save these enigmatic ecosystems, is too late to restore many areas which have been already been drained and reclaimed for agriculture or urban expansion. The wetlands of Narkura (Budgam), Indra-nagar, Bemina (Srinagar), Poshkur (Pulwama), Boug (Sopore) etc are some of the vivid examples which have dwindled for good and that too unfortunately with the willful and active support of the Govt. machinery and on behest of the unscrupulous politicians. The biological and socio-economic importance of Jammu & Kashmir’s wetlands makes it necessary to identify and prioritize some representative wetlands which urgently need conservation and its wise-use.
The Wetland International an International organization and authority on wetlands describe in their report the significance of wetlands of Kashmir as under,” The Kashmir Valley with an average elevation of 1600 amsl is dotted with wetlands, which play an enormous role in maintaining the hydrological regimes of the entire valley. There are varied assessments on the extent of wetlands within the valley owing to difference in interpretation of definition of wetlands. The present assessments ranging from 236.5 sq km (Space Application Center, 1998) – 256 sq km ( National Wetland Inventory, Salim Ali Center for Ornithology, 2001) , are significantly underestimated considering the comprehensive definition of wetlands on hydrological basis. Dal Lake, Anchar Lake, Manasbal and Wular Lake are some of the larger wetlands of the basin. Extensive marshes have been also formed in lower areas through catchment drainages, particularly between Srinagar and Sopore Rakh Asham, Naugam, Malgam, are some of the major marshes of the valley, a large portion of which has been drained and reclaimed for agriculture and settlement”.
Since it is not possible to take action on all wetlands, however, an integrated management approach can at least be taken for some selected wetlands, in which the government, NGO’s, aid agencies, local institutions and local communities play equal part. The article under reference provides some basic information about most degraded wetlands of Kashmir which needs the attention of the concerned authorities including Ministry of Environment and Forests Govt. of India. The Govt. of India is one of the signatories for the international commitments and agreements for protecting and conserving the wetlands in India. It is ironical that in the state of J&K the freshwater lakes, rivers, streams and wetlands are under the control and management of “nobody”. There is lot of confusion while fixing the responsibility of these water bodies to any agency except that of Dal Lake or that of Wular lake which are under the control of misnomered J&K Lakes and Waterways Authority or that of Wular/ Mansbal lake Authority, which are toothless authorities without any regulatory powers and engineering dominated. Other water bodies are multi controlled only on paper and virtually no controlling authority to whom the responsibility could be fixed. While they are on one side apparently under the control of revenue authorities but on the other side they are being claimed to be under Deptt. of Fisheries, Deptt. of Environment and remote sensing, Wild life protection Department particularly at the time of receiving of funds or earning of revenue.
WULAR WETLAND: Wular is one of the largest wetlands of Asia and an internationally accepted Ramsar site, located between north latitude 340-16′ and 340 – 26′; longitudes 740-33′ and 740-42′. The wetland area has reduced from 157.74 sq.km to 58.71 sq.km from 1911 to 2008.Thus there is a reduction of 45 percent mainly by conversion for agriculture (28 percent) and (17 percent) due to plantation within the lake by none other than the so called protectors of the wetlands. It has been recently estimated that 60,000 Kanals of Wular have been encroached upon in the catchment villages of Sonwari, Bandipur, Watlab, Nigili, Sopore etc though the wetland itself is a state property. Some of the reclaimed marshlands measuring about 25 sq.km have been transformed into willow plantations by the state govt. through social forestry to produce fuel wood and some areas have been transformed into permanent paddy fields. MAJOR THREATS: This wetland is one of the most disturbed ecosystems of the Kashmir valley. The major ailment of the wetland is siltation; large quantities of silt are regularly deposited by the Jhelum, Madhumati, Erin and other streams entering the lake. The rate of siltation has been estimated a 3.33 acre per ft. per year. Siltation has already claimed about 90% of it and the remaining 10% will disappear unless corrective measures are taken. The entry of raw sewage and plant nutrients are continuously adding the nutrient pool resulting in serious weed infestation. The thick mats of weeds prevent light from penetrating to the deeper water column thereby limiting other associates (phyto, zooplankton etc) which are an important food items for several fish and bird species. The over exploitation of the fishery resources has gradually decreased the catch to man hour ratio. Encroachment of the peripheral are and also due to plantation within the lake body has significantly effected the breeding habitats of many fish species. HOKARSAR: Hokarsar wetland is situate at an altitude of 1500m a.s.l. with geographical coordinates 340 – 05′ N, 740 -43′ E, about 10 km west of Srinagar city. It is permanent eutrophic wetland, once an oxbow, surrounded by freshwater marshes on the flood plain of the River Jhelum in the valley of Kashmir. The wetland is drained by a channel to the Jhelum river at Sozeth Narbal village. It is fed by permanent streams, the Doodganga, Sukhnag and flood waters. The wetland reaches a maximum depth of 1.1 m in spring with snow melt water and a minimum 0.4 m in autumn. The water is very turbid with little light penetration. The underlying soils are of silty-clayey –loam type. The pH is greatly effected by the high summer temperatures which accelerate the process of decay of organic matter. The wetland of Hokarsar is protected as a game sanctuary by the Department of Wild life Protection J&K State and the waterfowl hunting is allowed on a controlled basis in winter. Although number of management programmes including the construction of bunds and installation of a sluice gate to control water levels was some time back in progress, yet the wetland continues to be under the biotic stress. The encroachments have reduced the wetland area from original 1300 ha to 900 ha and as a result of cultural eutrophication the wetland is deteriorating at an alarming rate. Recent studies indicate higher values of conductivity, nitrogen and phosphorus. The range of Total phosphorus of the water is recorded 1382 µg/l to 1821 µg/l, the lowest being in spring (142.5µg/l) and the highest in autumn (2969µg/l). The heavy siltation load from the Doodganga catchment has rendered most parts of the wetlands into marshes. Major threats: The major threats this wetland is facing is the increased siltation particularly through Doodganga. Encroachments, reclamation of marshy lands into agricultural land, cultural eutrophication, sewage disposal by the settlement and runoff from the agricultural lands ANCHAR LAKE: Anchar Lake is situated at a distance of 14km to the northwest of Srinagar at an altitude of 1584m within the geographical co-ordinates of Lat. 340-20′N ; Long. 740 – 82′ E. It is a single basined lake connected on the eastern side within Dal Lake through an inflow channel ‘Nallah Amir Khan’ via Gilasr and Khushalsar. The lake, though close to Srinagar city, constitute both rural and urban characteristics in a typical rural environment. A network of channels from the cold water nallah Sindh enters the lake on its western shore forming delta. The lake is also fed by springs within the basin and along the periphery. Further, a number of channels from agricultural fields, effluents from the settlements and surface drains from the catchment area flow directly into it. The lake outfalls in River Jhelum at Sangam on its northeast direction. The catchment is approximately 66 km2 comprising of long stretches of elevated land on the northwest, which is used for raising different types of vegetation. Agricultural fields surrounds and partly under apple and willow plantation. In recent years significant encroachments have been noticed within the lake. According to Larwance the area of the lake in 1893-1894 was 19.54 Km2. It has now been reduced hardly to 6.8km2 of which 3.6 Km2 are marsh. Unabated encroachments still continue at alarming rate. The rate of encroachment in the Anchar Lake till 2000 has been estimated 0.184 km2/year.
Ecological Threats: The main disturbance in the lake is from the heavy silt flowing from the Sind nallah. The siltation process has greatly affected the lake ecosystem, resulting in the formation of the extensive marshlands. Large chunks of peripheral areas, especially on its eastern banks have been encroached upon by the people, by filling it and changing into vegetable gardens and even into residential areas. Large quantities of domestic and agricultural waste enter the water body throughout its periphery. In 1993 the UEE Department laid sewers pouring raw sewage from the catchment and settlements without any treatment which has aggravated the situation and accelerated the rate of eutrophication and pollution resulting in serious ecological changes. These ecological changes have seriously effected the biodiversity of the lake. Population of aquatic birds, both residents and migratory have also been affected and subsequent their food supplies are reduced considerably. Marshes within their lake are being mainly used for the cultivation of Salix sp. (Willow). The young branches of this plant are extensively used for the fabrication of wooden baskets and furniture and as such most of the lake area has been brought under willow plantation reducing the open water surface at an alarming rate. GILSAR and KHUSHALSAR: Gilsar and Khushalsar are the two interconnected twin wetlands, in the heart of Shari-khas towards north west and connected to Anchar by a narrow channel. The average depth of Gilsar is 2.7m and that of Khushalsar is 1.5m. Both the wetlands support large stands of aquatic plants particularly the Nelumbo and Nadroo).The fishing for mirror carp and harvesting of Nelumbo stems besides collecting of aquatic weeds for fodder has remained the attraction for locals and fisherman. The over exploitation and the rapid urbanization coupled with expansion of the Srinagar city has put these wetlands under tremendous stress and as a result the wetlands are experiencing the cultural eutrophication.
POTENTIAL THREATS: The entry of raw sewage from the immediate catchment and managed carrying of sewages from the adjoining areas amount to a daily load of 2.0 metric tones of Nitrogen and 1.7 tones of Phosphorus resulting in serious weed infestation and water quality deterioration. The waters of both the wetlands are insecure for human consumption as all the chemical parameters have far exceeded the permissible levels. The wetland dwellers particularly the fishermen are suffering from water borne diseases like Pyrexia, Ascariasis, Hepatitis and other gastro-intestinal and skin diseases.
SHALBUG WETLAND: This wetland is 16 km northwest of Srinagar and measures about 150 ha. The wetland consists of larger area of riverine marshes and shallow freshwater with associated reed-beds on the floodplain of river Jhelum. The wetland together with marshes are fed by the Sindh river and local runoff. The average depth of the water varies from 0.3 to 2.0 meters. The entire wetland is thronged by the game birds particularly during winter months and the wetland supports a locally important fishery and reed-harvesting industry, which provides excellent opportunities for support hunting. The wetland is important staging and wintering area for migratory Amatidae and a breeding place for a variety of waterfowl species.
PRINCIPAL THREATS: The principal threats the wetland is facing include siltation, eutrophication and unabated encroachments of agricultural land. Natural and artificial fertilizers extensively used on adjacent agricultural lands enter the wetland In runoff and have greatly increased the rate of eutrophication.
MIRGUND WETLAND: The wetland of Mirgund lies 15 km W-NW of Srinagar and measures about 300 ha. The wetland is shallow associated with reed-beds and riverine marshes, on the flood plains of the river Jhelum. The wetland receives waters by local runoff and the Sukhnag and Ferozpore nallas. The water level fluctuations considerably according to local rainfall and much of the wetland dry out during summers. The average water depth varies between 0.1m and 0.5 m. The wetland is protected as a game reserve by the Department of Wildlife Protection J and K State. The wetland is an important staging and wintering area for thousands of migratory waterfowl species.The largest number occur during the migration seasons and up to 50 common cranes (Grus grus) regularly utilize the wetland during migration. Like other wetlands of the valley this wetland is facing the threat of siltation, encroachment by agricultural land and that of the sewage.
HAIGAM RAKH: The famous wetland of Haigam is situated in district Varmul, 30km north-west of Srinagar and the surface area of the wetland measures about 1400 ha. This wetland too is situated on the flood plains of river Jhelum with a maximum depth of 1-25 m. The major part of the wetland is dominated by extensive reed-beds to allow the passage of boats between areas of open water. The wetland is fed by the perennial streams of the Balkhul and Nigli flood channels and numerous smaller streams. The water table falls in late summer and reaches its lowest in autumn, then begins to rise again in early winter. The surrounding land is predominantly rice paddy and natural marsh, with some pastures which flood after heavy rains. Strips of willow species have been planted around the perimeter of the wetland. Most of the wetland area is covered by a dense reed-bed. Dominant species include Typha, Phragmites etc.Open water body have floating water lilies, Trapa and other submerged aquatic plants. The entire wetland is protected as a game sanctuary and the wetland is important to local people as a source of fish, reeds for thatching, mat-making and fodder for live stock. The wetland is of major wintering area for migratory ducks particularly Anas species which have been recorded in thousands on migration. Anser anser formerly wintered in larger numbers, but few have been recorded in last few years. The wetland is also an extremely important breeding area for a variety of waterfowl species. MAJOR PROBLEMS: The major problems the wetland is facing include the accelerated rate of siltation, entry of sewage and effluents from the surrounding agricultural land resulting in faster eutrophication. The encroachments and conversion of open water bodies into land and intensive reed-cuttings have threatened this wetland.
Wanton destruction and degradation of the wetlands in the valley of Kashmir has been a major cause for the progressive loss of rich biological diversity associated with these habitats. Over exploitation of wetland resources and the recent trend of filling up of wetland areas for residential and commercial purposes are more direct threats to our wetland areas. On this day, World Wetland Day let us mourn for the lost wetlands (Narkara, Chandmari, Rakhi-Arath, Indranagar wetland etc ) and resolve to protect and conserve the remaining ones at least for our posterity.
* Shrinking Wullar, bane for winged visitors (25-07-2008)
* Troops, Sheep-Breeding Farm Pose Threat To Hangul (23-11-08)
* Asiatic black bear captured in Chesmashahi (23-11-08)
* Kashmiri Hangul faces extinction threat
(From 3000-5000 In Early ’90s, Only 190 Left) (22-11-08)
Shrinking Wullar, bane for winged visitors ‘ Migratory Birds Skip Polluted Lake’:: Srinagar, July 24: The Wullar Lake, one of the biggest attractions for thousands of migratory birds, can lose its winged visitors almost permanently if immediate steps are not taken to stop the inflow of sewage and encroachments in the water body, experts say.
Owing to its location at the western extremity of the Himalayas, the lake has been an important flyway and staging ground for migratory birds including shorebirds, gadwall, cranes, ducks, geese and pintails which migrate to the Valley to ward off extreme cold in their summer homes in Siberia and Central Asia.
Due to its rich bio-diversity and capacity to host the avian visitors, Wullar has been included in the Ramsar Convention making its conservation mandatory for the government. The lake and its satellite wetlands, including Haigam, Hokersar, Mirgund and Shallabugh, have also been included in the network of important bird areas.
The migratory birds use the lake for feeding during the night when there is no disturbance from fishermen or hunters while, during night, they seek refuge in Hokersar and nearby wetlands. During March-June, large areas of Wullar and the floating vegetation, trees, bushes and reed beds serve as breeding and nesting sites for some of the bird species.
However, the massive encroachment and pollution of the lake over the years is slowly but steadily affecting the inflow of the migratory birds to the lake.
“Due to reduction in Wullar’s area and deterioration of its water quality because of encroachments and heavy influx of sewage, many migratory bird species like Bar-Headed geese and Siberian crane have stopped visiting the lake,” former chief wildlife warden, Abdul Rashid Wani, told Greater Kashmir.
The wetland used to receive seven out of 53 globally threatened and nearly threatened water and wetland birds. None of these species have been observed in the Valley for the a few years past.
“It is an alarming situation and the authorities need to take immediate steps to restore the lake. Otherwise the day is not far away when the migratory birds will stop flying to the Valley. Unscrupulous persons have destroyed the natural habitat. Ironically, the authorities are totally unconcerned over the destruction of Wullar and other water bodies,” said Wani, who has served as the principal chief conservator of forests and
has been carrying extensive studies of Valley’s eco-system. He said due to pollution and siltation, Wullar has lost its carrying capacity. “The residue of dead aquatic flora and hydrophytic plants of the littoral zones have largely affected the water holding capacity of the lake and other wetlands. Wullar is losing various plants and seeds, an important feed to migratory birds, Wani said.
The Wetland International South Asia in its studies on Wullar has blamed loss of habitats as major threat to the birds in Wullar. “Decrease in wetland area leading to loss of food and cover plants have led to decline in water bird population,” it states. Some of the birds visiting the Valley are listed under appendices of Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (Bonn 1982) to which India is a contracting party and others are covered under the Central Asian Flyway Action Plan.
“It is a shame for us that we are contributing to decline of migratory birds by not preserving our wetlands. We are answerable to international community. Despite being signatory to international convention for preservation of wetlands and birds, the Government is in a deep slumber,” Wani said.
He suggested immediate check on encroachments, de-weeding and water management for revival of Wullar. “The condition of Wullar demands a comprehensive interdisciplinary approach involving everyone, from fishermen to bureaucrats, for its restoration,” he added.
Troops, sheep-breeding farm pose threat to hangul ::
ARIF SHAFI WANI
Srinagar, Nov 22: One of the major threats to hangul, which is on the verge of extinction, in Dachigam National Park here is the government sheep-breeding farm as the overgrazing of summer habitats of hangul by its sheep has forced the endangered specie to move towards unprotected areas, experts said.
Besides, they said, the presence of employees of other departments and troops of paramilitary CRPF for protection of a guest house meant for VIPs in the National Park hampers the movement of the hangul .
According to experts, the sheep breeding farm spread over 100 hectares of hangul habitat area in lower Dachigam “poses an immediate threat to the long-term survival” of hangul in Dachigam and should be immediately shifted.
“The sheep and goat belonging to this farm are let to graze in the alpine meadows of upper Dachigam (an ideal summer habitat for hangul) which may result in competition for food between deer and sheep. Since both animals are herbivorous, this can lead to disease transmission to hangul as there is confirmed evidence of transmission of John’s disease to hangul in Dachigam,” states Dr Khursheed Ahmad in his recent study ‘Aspects of Ecology of Hangul in Dachigam National Park.’
“It is as such recommended that the sheep breeding farm which otherwise also as per norms of National Parks is an illegal act be immediately shifted from Dachigam,” it adds.
The study states that there has been a large-scale biotic interference in the summer hangul habitats of Upper Dachigam in the form of excessive overgrazing and habitat degeneration by the sheep and goat of the sheep breeding farm.
“Also the livestock of local and nomadic (Bakerwal) shepherds and assorted biotic disturbance by people including staff of the sheep breeding farm which has resulted in heavy habitat degradation and hardening and erosion of the herb rich grounds of the hangul’s summer habitats” the study states.
Consequently, it states the hangul has changed its summer movement patterns to unknown habitations in the adjoining less protected and reserve forest areas which is of great concern for the long term conservation of hangul and its habitat.
“It is therefore recommended that a strict ban be imposed on the illegal grazing in Upper Dachigam so as to ensure the revival of the erstwhile ideal habitant and subsequent recovery of hangul to the habitations of Upper Dachigam,” it adds.
Environmentalists say the presence of a large number of troops and employees of many government departments like Fisheries, PDD, and Floriculture hampers the movement of hangul and other animals in the park.
“The troops have constructed barracks near Draphama guest house which forms a corridor of hangul to Oak patch during winters. Besides, the frequent movement of troops and VIP vehicles through a road falling in-between the corridor forces hangul to move to other parts of the park which is dangerous for them,” they said.
The problem does not end here. “As Wildlife Department has no control over the guest house, the huge rush of VIPs and their relatives creates disturbances in the park. The main purpose of Dachigam National Park is to protect the wild animals in their natural habitat. Other activities like sheep breeding and fish hatching definitely defeats its objective,” they added.
Chief Wildlife Warden AK Shrivastava acknowledged the disturbance to hangul by the sheep breeding farm. “Cabinet had recommended shifting of the sheep breeding farm many years ago. As the authorities could not find an alternative site for sheep breeding, the status quo has been maintained. The overgrazing by sheep has destroyed the habitat of hangul and made the diminishing population vulnerable to various diseases. We’ll take up the matter with the government,” he said.
Officials said the Expert committee on National Wildlife Board after a visit to Dachigam few years ago had also recommended shifting of the sheep farm to alternative site.
Asiatic black bear captured in Chesmashahi :: Srinagar, Nov 22: The officials of Wildlife department on Thursday evening captured an Asiatic Black bear who had taken refuge in Chesmashahi Grid Station at the foothills of Zabarwan mountain range.
Acting on information that the Black bear had entered the Grid Station, a team of experts from Wildlife Department and Animal Husbandry reached the spot.
“We immediately started the operation and within half an hour managed to tranquilize the bear with the help of an expert from Animal Husbandry. The bear weighing nearly 350 kilograms was later put in a cage and ferried to Dachigam National Park,” Rashid Naquash, Wildlife Warden Central, told Greater Kashmir.
From past few weeks bears have started to enter the residential areas mainly due to disturbance in forests and continued dry spell. Recently, the wildlife authorities captured two bear cubs from Nehru Park locality here.
Kashmiri Hangul faces extinction threat ( From 3000-5000 In Early ’90s, Only 190 Left) ::
Arif Shafi Wani
Srinagar, Nov, 21: Kashmiri stag or hangul, one of the world’s most endangered species, is on the verge of extinction due to increasing interference in its habitations. Experts blame excessive livestock grazing, predation, inbreeding population, habitant degradation and forest fires for the declining population.
Scientifically known as Cervus elaphus hanglu, hangul is the only surviving race of the Red Deer family of Europe in the sub-continent. The animal is battling for its survival in its last bastion—the Dachigam National Park located on foothills of Zabarwan range on the outskirts of Srinagar.
Known for its magnificent antlers with 11 to 16 points, hangul was once distributed widely in the mountains of Kashmir. During early ‘90s, their number was believed to be about 3,000-5,000.
Kashmir’s shikar map prepared by Maharaja Hari Singh depicts distribution of hangul in a radius of 40 km spreading from Karen in Kishenganga catchments over to Dorus in Lolab Valley, Erin catchments in Bandipora to Chamba district of Himachal Pradesh through Baltal to Aru, Tral, and Kishtwar
Gradually, the hangul population declined to about 1,000-2,000 in 1947 and subsequently as low as 250 in ‘70s.
According to the population estimation carried by the Department of Wildlife Protection and subsequent analysis by Wildlife Institute of India (WII), the hangul population has been reduced in between 117 to 190. The hanguls are now scattered within 141 sq km of the Dachigam National Park.
In 2006, the hangul sex ratio was 21 males per 100 females. The fawn-female ratio seems to be an important concern as it shows significant decline from 23 fawns to 9 fawns per 100 females between 2004 and 2006.
“The current trends indicate that the species could go extinct if necessary serious interventions are not made immediately,” states a group of scientists from the WII who had recently carried survey on hangul.
Quoting previous studies, the researchers have highlighted the problems confronting hangul due to disease transmissions from the sheep and goats leading to vulnerability of the species due to health problems.
“Habitat degradation due to the collection of firewood, small timber and palatable foliage for cattle by local people has also been reported and strongly recommended that in order to maintain suitable food available for hangul in winter, the habitat degradation must be completely stopped,” it states.
As per the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) Red List of threatened species assessment the hangul was categorized as endangered in 1996. Taking hangul’s current population structure, distribution, area of occupancy, number of maturing individuals, fluctuations in the number of mature individuals and female fawn ratio, the scientists recommend its inclusion into IUCN’s critical endangered category.
Researchers point out that the Upper Dachigam area which is the ideal and traditional summer habitat of hangul has been abandoned by it. “This may be due to disturbances by livestock and the grazers who camp in the upper Dachigam during summer. Competition for food, disease transmission from livestock to hangul, harassment by sheep, dogs, and other disturbances to hangul by humans could be the reasons. The upper Dachigam area should be made free from livestock and human use to enable hangul use their traditional summer ranges and not remain confined to the lower Dachigam only” the report states.
The scientists indicate that decline in hangul population presumed to be a reflection of continued degradation of hangul population due to possible predation by the common leopard (Panthera Pardus).
Concentration of hangul only in lower Dachigam, the report states may also be due to provision of supplementary feed and salt at certain locations in this area during winter by the Department of Wildlife Protection. Hangul habitat degradation could be a factor, largely due to human use.
“Frequent uncontrolled fires in the recent years may have adverse effects on hangul population, by removing escape cover. Besides, habitat degradation, poaching and lack of connectivity between the relic populations and the main (Dachigam) population could be another reason for the overall decline of hangul population in the mountains of Kashmir (historical range),” it states.
Chief Wildlife Warden A K Shrivastava said the department too was concerned over decrease in hangul population. “We have prepared a plan for hangul conservation and it will be hopefully sanctioned soon. The plan envisages in-situ breeding of hangul and restoration of its summer habitats in Dachigam National Park and conservation of its relic habitations like Khanmoh and Wangath,” Shrivastava said.
He said though there are no reports of poaching of hangul from last few years, still the department has formed special teams to check it.
Wildlife Warden Central Rashid Naqash who also monitors Dachigam National Park said, “Leopards and bears are found in many places but hangul is now only present in Kashmir. As citizen of this state we should be concerned over future, survival and future of hangul. It is a state animal and our pride. It is high time for government and people to join hands and save the hangul from extinction.”
Regional Wildlife Warden, Farooq Geelani, said, “Our priority is to restore the habitat of hangul and we have taken up the matter with state as well as central government. We will shortly launch massive awareness campaign for hangul conservation and seek help of national and international experts for preserving its diminishing population.”
Kashmir has a close resemblance to many European countries. On one hand, its surroundings coincide with those of Switzerland, on the other hand, its climate is very much like Great Britain. At the same time, Kashmir, like Italy, is also a land of lakes, though with a difference. The lakes of Kashmir have a great beauty of their own. There are many mythologies to categorise these lakes. According to one of them, the lakes of the vale can be placed under three categories viz. the Dal; i.e. the lakes found in planes, the Sar; i.e. that of morass and the Nag; i.e. the lakes found on the mountains. Among the pellucid and halcyon lakes of Kashmir, the most beautiful and important one is “the City Lake” or Dal lake.
Dal lake is a post glacial lake located at a latitude of 340-18’N and longitude of 740-91’E, at an average altitude of 1580m. Spread on the North-Eastern part of Srinagar, the summer capital of J&K state, it has a sublime view and recreational significance.
From North to South, Dal Lake extends from five to seven miles and two to three miles at its broadest point. The lake coves a water area of approximately 11.55 square kilometres. Although the average depth of the lake is eight to ten feet, at points it exceeds 25 feet. It is the only lake in the world were around 1500 families live in floating houses or houseboats and around 6000 families within approximately 150 hamlets, small islands.
The Dal Lake has been classified into five basins viz. Nehru Park Basin (Max. depth is 2.8 mtr. and total open water area is 1.56 sq. mtr.), Nishat Basin(Max. depth is 2.8 mtr. and total open water area is 4.61 sq. mtr.), Hazratbal Basin(Max. depth is 2.6 mtr. and total open water area is 6.96 sq. mtr.), Nagin Basin(Max. depth is 5.9 mtr. and total open water area is 1.61 sq. mtr.) and Brari Nambal Basin(Max. depth is 2.0 mtr. and total open water area is 0.76 sq. mtr.). The total catchment area of Dal is about 314 sq. km., which includes the areas of Dachigam, Telbal, Lake Hillside, Srinagar City, etc.
The main sources of water to the lake are Dachigam Nallah and Dara Nalla (Mallauri) and the high altitude Mansar Lake. The most important and natural source is the springs within the lake body, in its bed, which number 57. The wastewater generated by the lake inhabitants and those living in different localities on its periphery, also adds to the flow of the lake. There are two outlets of the lake viz. ‘Tchunti Kul’ at Dalgate, linking the lake to the river Jehlum, the lifeline of Kashmir, and Nallah Amir Khan, which links Dal and its adjunct Nagin Lake to Anchar Lake.
It has been observed that about 16.50 tons of Phosphorous and 364.50 tons of Nitrogen inflows into the lake per annum, out of which 1.70 tons of Phosphorous and 42.00 tons of Nitrogen flows out through the lake outlets, while as rest is utilised.
Commercially, Dal Lake is very important for the inhabitants living on and around it. Its catchy beauty attracts foreign and domestic tourists, all through the year, for boating, water sports and shikara-ride to different scenic spots, including springs and Mughal gardens. Assured of the arrival of multitudes of tourists every season, it enriches the earnings of shikarawallas, houseboat owners, handicraft and handloom dealers, labours, and other poor people. Its existence is also important for the hotel business, especially for those having their business establishments in and around the lake. The lake also plays an important role in irrigation. Its waters are carried to the fields outside lake, through canals and streams, which brings cheer to the farmers.
The lake dwellers are wholly dependent on it. Their main occupation is vegetable cultivation, carpet weaving, straw-mat weaving, fishing and shikara-driving. A large part of lake has turned into vegetable garden. In fact, Dal lake is one of the biggest vegetable producing areas of the state. The lake is also known for its ‘Nadru’ (Lotus Stem) cultivation, which is one of the lavish Kashmiri dishes. By cutting reeds close to the roots, in the open water, which then float up and form a kind of raft upon which masses of soil are placed, artificially created lands or floating strips are made. These floating strips are commonly known as “Radhs”, on which different varieties of vegetable are grown. “Rhads” provide good circumstances for the better yield of these vegetables.
Dal lake is extraordinarily rich in aquatic life. It has a special floral beauty of its own. The grandest flower found in Dal is lotus, bearing large, circular, pale green leaves, resting on the surface water. Globules of water stand like pearls on these leaves. Among the hundreds of flowers found in the lake, Euryale ferox is the remarkable one. Within the water are curved and ribbed spines bearing Calco flowers. The lake also bears a strip of white lily on its breast. Reeds and blushers found in the lake attains the height of about eight to ten feet, and serve as home for the Moor-hen, Dab-click and Reed-Warbler. Different kind of fish, especially Rainbow Trout, is abundantly found in the lake. Underwater plants and weeds maintain oxygen quantity of Dal waters. Cutting short, Dal lake is the acme of beauty and kudos among other lakes.
Elegiacally, today the lake is in the lachrymose predicament as the man has gone too deep to finish it. The encroachments within and along the lake periphery and new constructions by the people have reduced its water area to a great extent. According to the statistics the lake has been reduced to 1/3rd of its original size over past 50 years. Due to continuous shrinking of the lake, its capacity of holding water, especially during floods, has decreased drastically, resulting in the possible raise of its water level during rains, which can be calamitous not only the lake dwellers but the entire city.
The unabated emergence of the “Radhs” is also a great threat to the survival of the lake. Increase in agriculture activity by constructing these “Radhs” and on permanent lad, both within the lake and along its periphery is deteriorating its water quality, which is a threat to the aquatic life of the lake. Then there is the problem of reduction of plant cover in catchment areas, which results in siltation.
One of the biggest problems the lake is facing is the solid and liquid waste, generating in the localities around the Dal and pouring into the lake through incalculable number of drains. Because of the inflowing sewage, a wild weed growth is been recorded. Invasion of exotic weeds result in the explosive growth of serious pest plants, such as Salvinis natans and Lemna spp. According to an estimate about 40000 – 50000 tons of dead and allochthonous material are added every year to the Dal lake. Then there are problems like unregulated tourist flow, direct dumping of garbage and sewage by lake dwellers, decomposed vegetation and plankton debris, etc. In fact the name of the lake itself has become a big problem. One can’t understand whether it is “Dal Lake” or “Dull Lake”.