Wular Lake, which forms a part of river Jhelum basin, is one of the largest freshwater lakes of Asia. It is under peril on various counts. Besides pollution, encroachments threaten its survival also.
The Lake’s associated wetlands support rich biodiversity and provide habitat to migratory birds within the Central Asia flyover. It is also the largest fisheries resource in Kashmir Valley, supporting the livelihoods of large human population living along its fringes. Also importantly, the water body and its associated wetlands protect the Valley from floods as well as maintain the flow to support agriculture and hydro-power generation. However, over the past several decades, the water body is progressively shrinking.
Unfortunately, it has not attracted the required attention despite the fact that the lake was designated as “Wetland of International Importance” under Ramsar Convention in 1990 in recognizing its importance for its biodiversity and socio-economic values. There are several reasons for the ruins and some of them have been even well identified. However there has been little redeeming difference on the ground.
Chief Executive Director told the High Court that the net area of the Lake at present is 130 square kilometers and that 642 Kanals 01 Marla of land (around 0.3 sqkm) was encroached upon. “Out of the encroached land, about 261 kanals 10 marlas have been retrieved and that the authority is in the process of retrieving the balance of 380 kanals 11 marlas (0.19 sqkm).”
The Wetland Management and Conservation Rules provide that the wetlands shall be conserved and managed in accordance with the principle of “wise use” as determined by the Wetlands Authority. The rules explicitly prohibit activities such as encroachment of any kind, setting up of any industry and expansion of existing industries besides Solid waste dumping including the discharge of untreated wastes and effluents from industries, cities, towns, villages and other human settlements as well as any construction of a permanent nature.
There is a need for speeding up conservation efforts to enhance the water-holding capacity of the lake. The water body demands more attention. Considering its existing plight, the lake should be an environmental priority for all—the people and the government. It is important to our existence and no one shall allow it to shrink further and become extinct. It’s time that everyone gets serious about it.