Thinking of visiting Kashmir? Chances are that the first picture that comes to your mind is the pristine Dal lake of Srinagar city. For decades, the lake and scores of beautiful houseboats lined up in it have been the biggest attraction in this region. But did you know that this famous water body is ailing? The biggest cause is unabated encroachments and illegal structures being built around this lake.
Even in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, there are instances of people raising illegal constructions while taking advantage of the lockdown. In the last three months, the Lakes and Water Ways Development Authority (LAWDA), which monitors and develops these water bodies, has demolished more than 170 illegal structures around the lake. Since the people are taking advantage of the lockdown, the authorities are now forced to install CCTV cameras around the water bodies.
“We have started the process of placing CCTV cameras around Dal Lake. Five cameras have been placed while 15 more are being placed at different locations. We will try to cover the whole lake in a phased manner. The cameras will be of high quality so that number plate recognition is there too. And if people are seen carrying the construction material, we would get to know through the footage,” says Dr Bashir Ahmad Bhat, Vice Chairperson, LAWDA.
According to the officials, during lockdowns the monitoring becomes slow and so does the reporting of encroachments. This is what some people try to take advantage of. Scores of FIRs have also been registered against people for these encroachments. Many vehicles carrying construction materials have also been seized the officials.
“In 2020, LAWDA had done more than 463 demolitions around the lake. And in the last five years we have registered 1000 FIRs against people who encroached on the lake and 124 vehicles were seized too,” adds Dr Bhat.
LAWDA has demolished more than 170 illegal structures around the lake in the last three months. (Photo: Shuja ul Haq/India Today)
The lake also faces a major crisis of pollution. For years, hundreds of crores of rupees have been spent on cleaning the lake; however the challenge continues to remain. Officials say that while they are constantly on the job job when it comes to de-weeding the lake, the bigger worry is that of plastic waste. Time and again, they have urged people to be responsible and not throw plastic waste into the lake.
“There is a lot of sewage waste that comes out of the lake. Around 1 to 1.5 quintals of plastic is taken out on a daily basis from the people who live on the lake. Every day, we take out plastic waste which people throw while enjoying the beauty of the lake. Although throwing waste into the lake has reduced to a great extent,” notes Dr Bhat.
LAWDA has also established control rooms to monitor and supervise the efforts to clean the lake.
It was in June 1986, when the state govt first put a moratorium on construction within the lake. In 2002, the high court observed that the ban should apply to any kind of construction within 200 metres from the centre of the Foreshore Road, the Dal’s northern boundary. The court has since passed rulings in petitions that were heard for several years and directed the authorities to take concrete steps in ensuring the lake was conserved.