Dr. Mohammad Ashraf Bhat

Dal and Wular lakes are highly significant in terms of their influence on Ecology, Environment and Economy of Kashmir. The uncontrolled addition of dangerous pollutants to these lakes have played havoc, writes M. A. Bhat in an analytical article. According to him the lakes are near total collapse, because there has been lack of sincerity and consistency in executing operations to save them. To save these lakes, we need  a multi-pronged action plan. There is dire need to rework sewerage systems around the periphery of these lakes. Biotechnological intervention is a technical method. Besides STP’s other non-conventional methods of treatment are needed. Legal intervention is a preventive method.


The Significance of Lakes:


“I will try to present this scientific message in a lucid fashion for wider audience. The Dal and the Wular Lake in the state of Jammu and Kashmir stand highly significant in terms of their influence on Ecology, Environment and the Economy of the state. Considering the quantum of sewage, silt and agricultural runoff entry in to these lakes since several decades, and with little or no progress on the treatment processes at present, it is but pertinent that the health of these lakes has highly deteriorated rather these lakes can be considered terminally ill with respect to their ecology and water biology. It is important to mention here that it is not only the weed growth which has taken a heavy toll on the health of these lakes, but it is due to the total collapse of the hydro-ecology dynamics of these lakes. The uncontrolled addition of dangerous pollutants to these lakes in the form of nutrients and carbon-rich wastes both solids and liquids, and also considerable quantities of lesser-known pollutants in the form of pharmaceuticals and personal care products have altogether played havoc”.


Need for a multipronged action plan:

“We have to save these water resources now, or else it will be never; if we miss the opportunity. Why these lakes are at near total collapse is a question which needs an answer. The one word answer to this question is lack of sincerity. Every good and result oriented work needs sincerity in its execution. In the case of these two lakes the answer or solution lies in sincerity and consistency. Let me explain it for clear understanding. The sincerity part should have been played by the governments of the state of Jammu and Kashmir while formulating action plan for the restoration of these lakes. The consistency part should have been played by the on-ground executing agencies dealing with the restoration process of these lakes, in this case which include besides Lake and Water Development Agency (LAWDA), the scientific and civil society community of the state and the country. The executing agencies must keep in mind that there is no quick fix solution possible to deal with these environmental issues. You cannot solve the problem by manually or mechanically removing the floating weeds from these lakes. This is absolutely not going to solve the problem; in fact it is going to aggravate the problem (more weed growth). Scientific reports have shown that harvesting biomass (weeds) from a water body infested with nutrients and other pollutants actually gives space to the further weed growth; therefore the executing agencies must evolve a strategy which should ensure long-term or permanent solution to this problem. Time is running away, the government and the executing agencies must act now and must act sincerely and consistently, if they fail in doing so time is not far away that these lakes may turn into a major catastrophe ecologically, thus may greatly harm the environment, and economy of the state and also the health of the people inhabiting these lakes.


The Role of the High Court:

“At present, the Jammu and Kashmir High Court has taken the Dal lake restoration process under its supervision. LAWDA is the agency tasked to execute the restoration process. What is the vision document related to the restoration process that LAWDA has formulated? If any, it should be made public so that the healthy debate between scientific and civil society can be initiated in understanding the effectiveness of the vision document. Expert view across the country and the world should be included in the long-term restoration plan. As a researcher of water/wastewater resource management, I propose that long-term action plan which will ensure restoration of these lakes must include Civil, Biotechnological and Legal intervention. Before formulating long-term action plan for complete restoration of these lakes, we have to comprehensively understand the kinds of pollutants, issues, sources, and consequences. Most lake contamination issues are caused by sewage, silt and agricultural runoff conveyed into the lakes. Soil particles in the sediment comprise more than 90 percent of the natural nitrogen and phosphorus from upland farming practices. These pollutants altogether possess significant potential for weed growth in these lakes. In the case of Dal Lake, the sediments originate from the catchment area and enter directly into the Dal Lake through feeding channels, whereas nutrients can have both nonpoint and point sources (runoff and domestic sewage). A multi-pronged action plan can ensure restriction of these various pollutants”.


Reworking the Sewage systems:

“There is a dire need to rework the sewerage systems around the periphery of these lakes. The efficient sewerage system should include a series of drainage channels. These drainage channels must be engineered in such a way that all the sewage generated by domestic and commercial sector around these lakes and also the silt and agricultural runoff especially during rainy seasons should find their way directly into these drainage channels only. This civil engineering intervention henceforth named as inflow bypass system (IBS) shall comprise two gates at feeder channel inlets. These gates will ensure zero or negligible entry of sewage, silt and other pollutants coming from the catchment area into these lakes especially during rainy days”.


Latest technological sewage treatment plants (STP’s needed):

“This aspect of intervention is outdated at present. It must include besides STP’s, other non-conventional methods of wastewater/sewage treatment. Installing and inaugurating STP’s won’t work; to run STP’s efficiently, we require technical workforce and constant maintenance. The existing STP’s are old technology driven ones. Executing agencies must look for latest UASB based treatment systems. Install latest technological sewage treatment plants (STP’s) at appropriate locations on the peripheries of these lakes (near IBS system) and treat all the sewage before its discharge into these lakes. Among nonconventional methods, Plant-based wastewater treatment systems have proven equally or sometimes more efficient as compared to STP’s. All the European countries and also the other western ones have adapted plant-based wastewater treatment systems to treat the sewage generated by the population residing in semi-urban and rural areas,  which mostly lie out of the coverage of conventional and centralised sewage treatment facilities”.


Need for legal intervention:

“Legal intervention at the present situation is highly important. It is encouraging that the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir as mentioned above is keenly involved in this highly important environmental issue. Besides this, some comprehensive legal controls on the certain land use practices, limit fertilizer use and prohibit all other land use practices which consume large fertilizer content. Other way is that the catchment areas of these two lakes can be legally notified as non-agricultural zone areas. Compensation allowances can be incurred to farmers who may get affected by these legal regulations. In addition to above all, the population inhabiting these lakes in residential houses can be relocated to mainland areas for better restoration and management of these lakes”.


[Courtesy: daily Greater Kashmir, Srinagar, Kashmir; March 02, 2018].

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