“ There is nothing new in world except the history you do not know.” – Harry Truman

Aijaz looks at the dire condition of the Manasbal Lake and sees a large eco-system in neglect and decay just like in Dal and Anchar lakes

(Mr. Aijaz Hassan Ganie, 35, was born in Anantnag. He graduated from the Gandhi Memorial College in Jammu, and completed his M.Sc. from the University of Jammu. He completed his Ph.D. degree in Cytogenetics and Reproductive Biology from the Department of Biology of the University of Kashmir, where he is presently a researcher.)

All is Not Well for Manasbal Lake

Manasbal Lake is located about 30 km north of Srinagar, surrounded by five villages namely: Kondabal, Monabal, Baghwan-Mullaha, Gratbal and Kolpura (Jarokbal). It is the deepest lake of Kashmir valley and perhaps the only one that develops stable summer stratification. Close to the northern shore are the ruins of a fort which was built in 17th century by a Mughal king to cater the needs of caravans that used to travel from Punjab to Srinagar.

On the south, side of the lake is a hillock-Ahtung which is used for limestone extraction. The eastern part is mainly mountainous and towards the north is an elevated plateau known as ‘Karewa’; Kashmiri- Wedder. Besides there is a beautiful park (main Mansbal) and on Kondbal side a famous temple which is built inside spring with crystal clear water. The lake has no major inflow channels except Kurhama-Yousrung nalla and the water supply is maintained through spring water inflow. An outlet channel connects the lake with the Jhelum River at village Naninara. The outflow of water is regulated artificially. The local population uses the lake as a source of water, for fishing and for obtaining food (Nelumbo nucifera-Nadroo, Nymphaea alba, N. maxicana-Buom and Trapa natans- Goar/Gadegool) and fodder plants (Nymphoides peltatum-Khor, Potamogeton natans-Kolhoun and P. nodosus- Auv). Many people are involved in harvesting and marketing of lotus rootstocks (Nadroo) which are extensively eaten in the State. The large growth of lotus at the periphery of the lake (blooms during July and August) adds to the beauty of the clear waters of the lake. In recent years, tourism has caught up with the Manasbal Lake in a big way and as a consequence there is lots of pressure on this valuable ecosystem.

The pollution level of the lake is increasing at an alarming rate. Two years back when we visited the lake there was a series of small springs around the famous temple with crystal clear water and lot of aquatic plant diversity and the clear water of these springs inflow into the lake. Recently we found all the springs were filled and changed into newly constructed parks and a market, which is not a good sign for the ecology of the lake, this has also prompted the locals to fill their land around the lake, the authorities should bear in mind that tourists visit this place to see and enjoy the beauty of the lake but not the market and gardens. The other major problems which we observed are; the polluted water of Kurhama- Yousrung nalla which enter the lake on Kondabal side. On interacting with the elderly people of the area they told that the water of this steam used to be very clear and before entering the lake were stored in the small pond and ditches on left side of the temple. Even two years back we also saw the small pond and water of this stream before entering into the lake used to enter this pond and after losing the sediment and other pollutants there, enters into the lake. But unfortunately as I have mentioned earlier that authorities have started the filling process and the locals also started this practice and planted willow saplings (Salix sp.) in the particular area where previously the pond used to be. This resulted into the serious problem that water of this channel loaded with lot of sediment and pollutants enter this prized ecosystem directly. The other big problem is the sewage and fecal matter of the village Kondbal which enters the lake. The indication of this increasing pollution level on that side (from temple to Kondbal) is that the emergent aquatic plant species particularly those tolerant of high pollution are growing in abundance there which include: Ranunculus secleratus, Typha angustata and Phragmites sp. The other aquatic plants which are indicators of eutrophication are growing abundantly from this side are Potamogeton crispus, P. pectinatus, Ceratophyllum demersum, Myriophyllum spicatum, Azolla sp. and growth of plant species particularly Myriophyllum aquaticum from this side indicating that depth of the lake is decreasing due to the heavy loaded sediments of Kurhama-Youstung nalla, even some patches looking like small islands has also been formed from this side. The increased levels of pollution in the lake and abundant growth of aquatic weeds has adversely affected the growth of Lotus (Nadroo) and its production has reduced upto 30% during the last 4-5 years said Fayaz Ahmad a local resident of Monabal. The area from Monabal to Kolpora is blessed with large number of springs and most of these springs are in bad shape, little efforts are needed to clear these natural gifts, otherwise there is no problem from this side as per the lake ecosystem is concerned. The positive step which the lake authorities have taken is the construction of concrete boundary (Bandh) from Kondbal to Monapora which the authorities should have constructed upto Kolpora. From Naninara side (out let of lake) there is no demarcation between agriculture land and bank of the lake, the irrigation water of the rice fields loaded with nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizers directly enters into the lake which results into eutrophication of the lake. Steps are needed to be taken in this direction so that the water of rice fields should not enter the lake and construction of concrete boundary from this side is also necessary to conserve this pristine ecosystem.

Korhama-Yousrung nalla heavily loaded with sediments and pollutants

At last we conclude that this prized ecosystem can be managed and conserved for many more years to come if the pond from Kondbal side is restored, providing proper sanitation to the villages surrounding the lake, construction of concrete boundary from Baghwan-Mullaha to Jarokbal and from Naninara side also avoiding water of rice fields from Nanirara side to enter into the lake.