Shrinking of Wular Lake

Wular Lake – File Photo

WULAR LAKE, the second largest natural freshwater lake in Asia, is situated in Bandipora district of Kashmir. The size of the lake is 16 km long and 10 km wide, but varies according to season due to varying water levels. The area of the lake has reduced from 157 sq. km to 86 sq  km in three decades. Wular lake is located 50 km from the main Srinagar city. The lake lies at an altitude of 1,580 m. Its maximum depth is 14 metres. The lake basin was formed as a result of tectonic activity and the main source of water is Jhelum river.

It plays a significant role in the hydrographic system of the Kashmir Valley by acting as a huge absorption basin for annual floodwater. The lake with its associated wetlands is an important habitat for migratory water birds and supports rich biodiversity. Livelihoods of lakeshore communities are primarily dependent on lake resources, including fish and aquatic vegetation.

According to the action plan of Wular lake (2007), the area of the lake was 217 sq km in 1911 which includes 58 sq km of associated marshes. Lake has shrunk to nearly half of its original area. The lake area has reduced mainly due to conversion for agriculture, plantation and encroachment on its shores. One fifth of the water holding capacity has been lost over the last three decades due to siltation.

Lack of understanding of the values and functions of Wular Lake, wetlands have led to conversion of its large area. Agriculture settlements, willow plantations and government sponsored programmes have led to shrinkage of the lake area. There is a need to adopt new guidelines of management and planning. Conservation measures should be taken as the lake is fast losing its aesthetic beauty.

Suhaib Baba

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