My View

Doom for a Natural Legacy: The Dal Lake

The Kashmir Valley is a marvel of nature, as beautiful as anything in the Hindu Kush-Himalayas. Glorified by a Moghul king as ‘a paradise on Earth’, the valley has a number of freshwater bodies. Nestling in the lap of its capital Srinigar, sometimes called the ‘city of the sun’, is the beautiful Dal Lake.

The Dal Lake, fed partly by sacred springs, has witnessed millennia of green summers, golden autumns and frozen winters. It has mothered golden orioles, majestic kingfishers, and geese and goslings. It has fed the Kashmiri folk with food and fibre, nectar-like water, and peace of mind. It has witnessed the evolution of cultures, glorious history, and eternal spirituality. It has survived evil times, foreign marauders, and the gory suppression of past rulers. 

I was fortunate to have been born and to grow up on its banks. What a blessing to have experienced such unspoilt nature. Without doubt the Dal Lake has been the body, mind and soul of the Kashmir Valley. But today this embodiment of pristine nature is ailing. 

I was away for decades, and during that time the Dal Lake has been misused and abused by its own folk who thrived on it. It is being encroached upon by land-fillers, polluted by residential boats, and made filthy by natives and tourists alike. The crystal clear water of yore is murky and putrid; the once placid body of water is overgrown with noxious weeds, and dented by the asphalt of urbanisation. Despite thousands of voices sounding the alarm, and millions of rupees being spent as dozens of state diktats attempt to protect the lake, the work is in vain. These are merely the cosmetic actions of feigned resolve. The sons of the soil have betrayed the lake’s past and maligned its future. 

     
 
It is humans’ greed and arrogance that has caused the destruction of the great Dal Lake. The couplet of the Philosopher-Poet of the Indian Sub-continent, Sir Mohd. Iqbal is relevant here: Mujhe rokega tu ai naakhuda kya gharaq hone se, Ke jin ko doobna hai doob jaate hain safinon mein (How can you, steersman, save me from drowning? Those fated to drown, will drown despite the boat). The Dal Lake cannot be saved since even in its final moments it brings profits and riches to locals, recreation to thousands of tourists, and power to politics. Saving the vestiges of the lake will need unbiased commitment, strong emotions, and yeomans’ services, even if it is too late.

- Rajan Kotru <>