Wullar Lake encroached upon

The Wullar lake, Asia`s largest fresh water lake, has been encroached upon over the past century reducing it from 217 sq km to just 125 sq km.

Srinagar: The Wullar lake, Asia`s largest fresh water lake, has been encroached upon over the past century reducing it from 217 sq km to just 125 sq km.

"The area of the Wullar lake was around 217 sq km besides 50 sq km of marshy land as per the census of 1911 but has drastically reduced to just 125 sq km," District Development Commissioner, Bandipora, Manzoor Ahmad Lone informed a three-member committee on environment of the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly.

The committee, headed by State Secretary of CPI(M) M Y Tarigami, conducted an extensive tour of the Bandipora district yesterday and sought details about the Rs 398 crore Wullar conservation Project and its implementation.

There are about 62,000 kanals (3,100 hectares) of Wullar Lake which has been encroached over the years, the District Development Commissioner said adding, however, that there were good chances of recovery as there is no human habitations inside the lake.

The mega Wullar conservation project has been sanctioned by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forestry as per the project prepared by the Wetland International.

An amount of Rs 120 crore stands sanctioned under 13th Finance Commission for the purpose.

"The conservation plan will focus on removing encroachments and weeding out around 22.5 lakh full grown trees and the process will be started in a phased manner," Lone said.

The committee said the forest department, which is the
nodal agency for Wullar Development Authority (WDA), headed by Chief Conservator of Forests has a vital role in the conservation of the lake along with Wetland Division of wildlife department.

The committee asked the WDA to focus on scientific conservation and protection of Asia`s largest fresh water Lake.

"There must be an scientific expert Committee constituted by an independent institution like Kashmir University and SKAUST to study the project report and submit the same before the Committee for understanding the scientific parameters of the project," the committee said, adding, "there must be no intervention from any quarter about its functioning so that timely completion of the project is ensured".

The committee while going through the details was not satisfied with the progress of the project and stressed for speeding up the work, an official spokesman said.
He said it was told that the trees inside the lake can give revenue of around Rs 400 crore to the state exchequer, if properly managed.

The spokesman said the committee conducted an extensive tour of various areas of Gurez Tehsil and took stock of the measures taken by the Department of Tourism for exploring tourism potential in the Gurez so that it is brought on the tourism map.