Wullar Lake Phase-II: Rs 59.59 cr allocated for conservation, tourism promotion

Bandipora: An allocation of Rs. 59.59 crore for Phase-II has been approved by the Wullar Conservation and Management Authority (WUCMA) to support the Integrated Management plan for Conservation of Wullar Lake, with the goal of attracting tourists, enhancing the lake’s beauty, and restoring its former grandeur

Deputy Commissioner Bandipora, Dr Owais Ahmad said that comprehensive efforts have been taken to safeguard and protect Wullar Lake, with the government having sanctioned a work program with a budget of Rs. 59.59 crore for the fiscal year 2023-24.

“Key initiatives within this program included water management, the completion of Wullar Walkway Phase-II, the implementation of various eco-development projects, the creation of a cycling track around the lake, the introduction of water sports, and the inclusion of Shikara boats,” he added.

He stated that a holistic ecotourism plan for Wullar Lake is in progress, reflecting the government’s commitment to position the lake as a prominent tourist destination, and officials are dedicated to executing the conservation work plan with a focus on benefiting local communities.

Regarding the selection of locations for lake beautification, the DC said that the picturesque Zurimanz village, often referred to as “Bangladesh,” has been chosen as an idyllic destination for both domestic and foreign tourists. This choice includes plans for introducing water sports activities and various other initiatives.

“An enchanting pedestrian pathway is currently under development around the lake, poised to captivate an increasing number of tourists. Further enhancements are planned for this phase,” he added.

Over the past 30 years, Wular Lake has faced a decline in its carrying capacity due to deforestation and encroachment, leading to water quality deterioration caused by the disposal of untreated sewage and solid waste, alongside issues like blocked inlet and outlet channels and forest degradation in the catchment areas.

Although the Wullar Conservation and Management Authority (WUCMA) was established for lake conservation in September 2012, substantial progress began only in May of the previous year. The project’s first phase, focused on ecotourism development, involves an expenditure of Rs 200 crore from the Union Territory’s fund, with a total estimated project cost of Rs 1,600 crore.

In addition to land and water resource management, WUCMA focused on preserving biodiversity, promoting ecotourism, creating a lake shoreline, establishing recreational parks, bird-watching spots, and constructing the Wular Boulevard.

Recently, the second meeting of the WUCMA was chaired by Principal Secretary for Forest, Ecology, and Environment, Dheeraj Gupta. The meeting included a review of progress on various wetland conservation projects, notably the Integrated Management Plan for Conservation of Wular Lake.

Principal Secretary Gupta instructed WUCMA officers to implement all necessary measures for the preservation and conservation of Wular Lake while emphasizing the significance of wetlands in maintaining ecological balance, playing roles in water purification, flood control, biodiversity habitat, and contributing to J&K’s economy as popular tourist destinations.

Meanwhile, local residents are optimistic that the beautification of Wular Lake will draw an increasing number of tourists, ultimately bolstering the local economy. “We are wholly and solely dependent on this lake for our livelihoods, so its beautification is a source of great pride for us,” said Mohammad Ayaz, a resident of Banyeri village.

A few years ago, the local residents had to abandon their fishing businesses due to its lack of profitability. “The widespread pollution in the lake had shattered the community’s confidence in pursuing this trade, and depending on the lake seemed inappropriate,” said Shahbaz Ahmad, another local resident. “There was a prevailing sense of despair as no one believed that the condition of Wular Lake could improve. However, the government’s restoration efforts have significantly transformed its status in just a few years,” he added.

Meanwhile, they have urged the government and the Bandipora district administration to accelerate the progress of the project to ensure its timely completion. (KNO)

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