Of late one thing has become very clear: the water bodies and all of the life they sustain are under increasing strain in Jammu and Kashmir.
The condition of all the water bodies including Dal Lake, Jhelum and Wular has deteriorated. Some, if not all, have shrunk to a large extent over the last several decades or so. All this is due to the indiscriminate destruction carried out by some by unscrupulous elements by resorting to encroachments or others in the name of development, which translates into rampant constructions.
Not only big water bodies, small water bodies including ponds and small lakes, low-order streams, and springs, are under threat despite most them being important, rather critical for biodiversity. There is need for seriousness, given their recognised role in ecosystem service delivery. Small waters often represent the best remaining examples of intact freshwater habitats and are the most likely to remain less polluted, often being a refuge for species which have disappeared from larger, more damaged, water bodies. Practically all water-related ecosystem services are initially mediated by small waters and some, such as carbon cycling, may be dominated by them. Experts say that small waters are exposed to all the threats affecting larger waters, and some experienced only by small waters.
Earlier this week, in a right endeavor, the Jammu and Kashmir administration constituted an eight-member committee for the identification, protection and restoration of water bodies across the J&K.
The committee has been asked to submit periodical reports to the Central Pollution Control Board and secretary Jal Shakti Department.
The terms of reference for the panel also includes identification and protection of all water bodies and assigning of unique identification numbers to each one.
The administration needs to follow a pro-active approach for protecting and conserving the water bodies. And the formation of the panel is beyond doubt a step in the right direction. One expects that the committee performs its job efficiently so that much of the loss can be retrieved. It should fast begin with the process of identification with records already available with the modern means of geo-identification to its aid. The committee may recommend massive public information and sensitization campaign and take steps for clearing encroachments and cleaning all the waste dumped in and around these water bodies. It is also important to note that no amount of restoration will work unless local authorities are made accountable for allowing development on fragile ecosystems and the government needs to concentrate on that front also.