The Kashmir valley is very famous for its scenic beauty as it has been bestowed by the Almighty Allah with beautiful and fascinating water bodies, snow clad mountains, Lush green forests and meadows, pleasant and invigorating climate etc. Blessed with over 1,000 small and large water bodies, the landlocked Kashmir Valley, located northern India, is known as the land of lakes and mountains.
All the water bodies of kashmir valley have immense socioeconomic and ecological benefits. They are source of employment for the people; provide fruits and vegetables, fishing activity, recreation, adventure tourism, revenue for the government. They act as carbon sink, and help in controlling floods and maintaining ecological balance. The livelihood of thousand of people is directly and indirectly dependent on water bodies. They have been contributing in poverty reduction of the people associated with water bodies. They provide water for drinking, agriculture, industries, washing, bathing, construction purposes etc. They attract lakhs of tourists all around the world every year. However, the water bodies of kashmir valley are dying and darkening due to many reasons. Due to large scale urbanization and unprecedented deforestation, growing population, urban concretization, pollutions, climate change and illegal encroachments, discharge of sewage, waste and silt are putting pressure on our water bodies to a greater extent and most of the water bodies in the region have disappeared. The rampant misuse of the building permission norms and lack of action by the government has turned most water bodies into cesspools. A number of commercial establishments have been raised over the years around the water bodies of the valley. The pollutants from various sources like agricultural activities, factories, industries, households etc. are getting into our water bodies that are adding to dying of water bodies gradually. Excessive use of pesticides, fertilizers and weedicides in agricultural fields and orchards promote eutrophication of water bodies that decrease depth and oxygen level in water bodies that are very harmful for aquatic flora and fauna. Almost in all water bodies, many fish species and their population have witnessed a sharp decline due to depletion of oxygen and ingress of pollutants. The expanse of the water bodies like Dal, Wular and Nageen lakes has significantly been reduced for the past one and half decade. These water bodies are now losing its charm as picnic spots due to suffocating and dying. Many small water bodies have been converted into agriculture lands for rice and vegetable cultivation and tree plantations that caused their complete extinction on the mother earth of the kashmir valley.The growing neglect and the lack of awareness is also responsible for the depleting condition of our water resources. Lack of transparency and accountability in government projects investing huge sums of money on their protection and restoration besides limited and ineffective sewerage treatment plants are also adding to their dying.
The water bodies that are providing important services are now used as waste bodies. People are directly and indirectly polluting these water bodies and the expanse of the water bodies like Dal, Wular and Nageen lakes has significantly been reduced. For the past few years, many water bodies that became extinct in the valley caused serious consequences like acute shortage of drinking water due to detoriation of water quality, increasing floods, agricultural droughts, desertifications in the valley etc. The unabated illegal sand mining and extraction are not only adding damage and destruction to the water bodies but are also affecting the aquatic flora and fauna and for the past many years, many aquatic species of flora and fauna in the water bodies became extinct. The present situation of most water bodies is worrisome and if this goes unabated, tourists would cease to come to the valley. Who would spend money to see cesspools? The blanket ban on settlements around the pristine water bodies, declaration of sensitive area around water bodies, strict enforcement of laws and stringent punishment to the violators of water bodies is the need of the hour. Moreover, awareness and education among the people about the importance of water bodies and involvement of young youth, NGO’S, civil society and religious scholars in preserving and protecting the water bodies through the Kashmir valley. The already settled population near and around the banks of water bodies should be relocated and rehabilitated outside the sensitive areas of water bodies. Let’s pledge sincerely not to pollute and encroach water bodies but to save and preserve for the best future.
(The author is a teacher at Government Boys Higher Secondary School Beerwah. Views are his own)