Land mafia busy eating up Wullar Lake

Bandipora: Illegal encroachments along the banks of Wular Lake are reportedly going on unabated despite repeated directions from the J&K High Court ordering the removal of encroachments along the banks of water bodies.

The fishermen community are aghast over the ‘callous and insensitive’ attitude of the Fisheries Department who alleged that a mafia in league with some officials of the Fisheries Department is busy in encroaching upon the water body thus disfiguring the Asia’s largest fresh water lake. Illegal constructions dot the meandering banks of the lake in many areas as Wular has shrunk extensively and its carrying capacity has decreased.

"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. There are about 62,000 kanals (3,100 hectares) of Wullar Lake which has been encroached over the years. The irony is that human habitation has started occupying the water body inside the lake,” Secretary Fishermen Union Ali Muhammad said adding that Rs 398 crore Wullar Conservation Project has not been fully implemented.

"The conservation plan was aimed at removing encroachments and weeding out around 22.5 lakh full grown trees,” he said.

The residents said that right from Nengli Sopore to Watlub the illegal encroachments have come up in connivance with employees of Fisheries Department and the irony is that the occupants after occupying a patch of water body sell it to another party for fishing purposes.  “It is a big mafia which not only involves fishermen but also a major group of Fisheries Department.

 If these encroachments are not dismantled and further grabbing of land not stopped, soon the Wullar will lose its sheen and it will be remembered as Lake in history books only,” they said.

“The mafia after erecting a temporary structure along the banks of Wular lake, gradually creep into the water bodies and occupy a vast patch by erecting logs with sign boards, thus prohibiting others from fishing in that patch of illegally occupied water body. Gradually, the mafia sells this patch to another party for fishing purposes and a due share is given to the employees of the Fisheries Department,” the locals alleged adding that even a top official of the department is hand in glove with the mafia.

The locals added that a top official who initiated a drive against the encroachers was recently transferred to other place.

From past few years, it is not only the Wullar banks but also the patches inside the Lake that has been encroached by the greedy people. Others are encouraged due to inaction from the authorities. “The officials who are in league with the mafia in a bid to mislead the people sometimes appear on scene and dismantle few tin sheds. But the next day those tin sheds again surface in full knowledge of those officials,” said a resident.

Director Fisheries Rajesh Dogra said that they are on job and from past few months dozens of illegal structures have been dismantled. “Owing to the vastness of area and lack of manpower it will take some time to remove all the illegal structures,” he said and refuted the allegations that any official from the department is hand in glove with the mafia.

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