Kashmir, popularly known as heaven on earth is bestowed with number of beautiful lakes, lush green meadows, dense forests, rich health resorts and refreshing streams. It is among one of the popular destinations in the world rich in lakes, rivers, mountains and swampy lagoons that attract tourists. Wular, has since ages been tantalizing the lovers of nature. The most famous lakes in the state of J&K are Dal Lake, Nagin Lake, Pangong Lake and Wular Lake. Wular Lake among these, is the largest lake is the largest fresh Water lake in Asia and the beauty of mountains in the background make it a place worth visiting. Wular lake is situated in north Kashmir district of Bandipora about 40 km northwest of Srinagar city. The lake was formed as a result of tectonic activity and is fed by the Jhelum River. Wular Lake is also fed by three mountain streams Madmati, Erin and Bohnar. Wular Lake due to its high productive ecosystem, hydrological values and socio-economic importance, was designated as a Ramsar site in 1990, under the convention of wetlands of international importance.
Wular lake is surrounded by villages Ashtung, Mangnipora, Pathushai, Watapora, Qazipora and Kalusa on North. Sadunara, Madwon, Khusarpora, Shahgund, Haritar and Tarzu on South. Sopore town, Janwara, Watlab, Kinhus and Kanibuth on West. The nature lovers enjoy looking towards Wular lake. In ancient times, Wular Lake was called as Mahapadamsar. The age of lake is not known and generally it’s believed that it was once capital of Kashmir named sind-Mantnagar but subsequently due to violent earthquake, land sank and river vitasta got diverted and formed the wular lake. In Nilamata Purana (a Kashmiri Purana) mentions it as ‘Mahapadmasaras’. It is also referred as Bolor by Al-Biruni (a great Persian Muslim scholar of the 10th and 11th centuries). Wular Lake is best known for high waves in the afternoons, called Ullola in Sanskrit; meaning ‘a large wave’. So, it was also being called ‘Ullola’. Its corrupted form saw its transition as ‘Bolor’ by Al Biruni and over the centuries it may be corrupted as Wulor’ or ‘Wular’. The name Wular may also derives its name from the local Kashmiri word ‘Wul meaning a gap or a fissure.
It is also believed the famous Kashmiri Sultan, Zain-ul-Abidin had ordered the construction of an artificial island named Zaina Lank, which is situated in the middle of Wular Lake in 1444. The Lake within River Jhelum basin plays a significant role because thousands of people in Kashmir Valley depend on Wular Lake for fishing to earn their livelihood. With a size of 189 sq. km, Wular has a maximum depth of 5.8m, has a length of 16 km and a breadth of 10 km. The lake varies it’s size from 30 to 260 sq km, according to the changing seasons. The water is calm and placid across most seasons of the year but, it is often flooded by melting snow and heavy volumes of water draining in from Pohru stream. So, visitors should get an insight on the prevailing weather conditions before visiting the lake. To prevent dangers, embankments and small dams are being constructed at strategic places. The deepest part of Wular Lake is known as Mota Khon or Gulf of Corpses. Usually, local fishermen and boatmen avoid this area to reduce the risk of drowning. The bodies of people drowned in the lake reach this deepest point–giving Mota Khon its name. Containing a large variety of fish the lake provides livelihood to thousands of fishermen in the Kashmir Valley.
Hundreds of boats sail out daily on the lake in search of rosy barb, common carp, and mosquito fish and snow trouts- along with hundreds of others. Statistics indicates that the annual fish production in the state has touched to 19 tons, out of which 16 tons are produced in Kashmir valley. A recent study (Rizwana, Adnan, Nasir and Bilal, 2018) related to Wular discusses the scientific methods of drying fish and the role it play in socio-economic growth of the Fishers in district Bandipora. The Lake also flutters with thousands of birds and water-fowls and some of the common terrestrial birds spotted here include the Eurasian Sparrow hawk, Black-eared Kite, Short-toed Eagle, Himalayan Monal, Himalayan Golden Eagle, Chukar Partridge, Rock Dove, Koklass Pheasant, Woodpecker, Golden Oriole, Hoopoe, Barn Swallow, Common Cuckoo etc. The lake offers plenty of opportunities for boating, fishing and water skiing. Tourists can hire houseboats, sailing boats and doongas to cruise along designated mooring places in the region. The most noteworthy amongst them are located at Ningal Kiuhnus Bay, Nullah and Ajus Spur. Tourists visiting here, also like to experience the delights of shopping for woolen carpets at Bandipore. Note that, the lake, calm though it may appear, fierce winds come down the mountain gorges of Erin and Bandipur blow up and make journey dangerous. Tourists are advised to hire a cruise from an experienced tour guide. Interesting sights are plentiful around Wular Lake. Sopore (also spelled Sopur) near Ningal Nullah at the southern end of the lake is a larger city in an area known for growing apples and walnuts. The lake can also be approached from Nal Sarovar Bird Sanctuary, which is a paradise for bird watchers. The lakes in Kashmir valley are very important from ecology as well as the tourism point of view. Over the years, Wular lake have been encroached upon and have become polluted. Wular lake is shrinking in size due to our negligence, increase in agricultural activities and the reduction of plant cover on the hill sides surrounding the lake.The purity of water is also deteriorating with the passage of time. It is noticed that products from lake such as Fish, Trapa (Singada), Nalamboe (Nadroo), Khai-Kharoo, Games et are diminishing. The main problems with contributing reasons are size, deforestation of catchment area, afforestation and water quality. Management of higher reaches to control the soil erosion so as to reduce the siltation of water bodies solved by following Xingzheo (2008).
A harmonious relationship must be developed between the humans and nature and all the stakeholders must be encouraged to participate meaningfully in identifying and resolving critical lake problems. The lake and its peripheral area has been surveyed by the Govt. of India and map has also been published. It is the responsibility of the Govt and the people of the state to save this precious lake from further destruction. Good governance based on fairness, transparency and empowerment of stakeholders is essential for sustainable lake use. It is important for conservation of Lake we strengthened bunds to avoid encroachment, encourage plantation on all hill slopes, develop tourism in the area and to increase the retention capacity of lake dredging may be allowed around lake. The improvement in the drainage systems in the Kashmir valley is going to safeguard the valley from catastrophic floods and will also help us to get the best out of our precious water bodies, both ecologically as well as economically.
(The authors Dr. Bilal A. Bhat, Associate Professor (Statistics) in SKUAST & co author Dr. Shaikh Ghulam Rasool, Chairperson J&K, RTI Movement write regularly for Kashmir Horizon. Views of authors are their own)