Often termed as the Heaven of Earth for its natural sublime beauty, this Jammu and Kashmir – the Northern most provinces nestled in the highest Western Himalayan mountain range. This territory even holds a great dispute between India, Pakistan, and China. Some of the most spectacular landscapes of nature can be found at this place like Ladakh desert, dense forests of Kashmir Valley, and mixed deciduous forest of Jammu. The summer capital of this territory is ‘Srinagar’ while ‘Jammu’ is the winter capital.
These features make this area one of the most sensitive areas of India from an environmental point of view. There is amazing biodiversity here. In this fertile land, there are thousands of varieties and species of flora and fauna found here. Glaciers present at high altitudes give rise to innumerable rivers, natural springs, and streams that flow through the valleys here. These further provide water to the lakes, which is the lifeline of the local people; especially farmers and gardeners of Jammu and Kashmir.
Dear reader, I am writing this Blog to focus much more on the two renowned Lakes i.e. the Wular and the Dal Lake. From a tourism perspective, I will brief about the Lake’s geography, its flora and fauna, natives’ economy and their livelihood methods, the crisis of Lake and human interference and the efforts of lake’s beauty restoration along with the attractive areas to visit around and the means of transportation to reach the Magnificent Valley. And I will try my best to not to become comprehensive. And if so then this Blog is going to be divided into 2 parts. Well, it’s all about the prior information before you catch a local tour guide after reaching there. Don’t just visit but collect information too.
Warm regards and enjoy reading!
Wular Lake is one of the largest freshwater lakes in Asia and the largest in India. This 16 kilometers long and 10 kilometers wide Lake is one of the wetlands of India of international importance, which has been given the status of being a heritage of the Earth in 1986 under the 1975 ‘Ramsar Convention’ in Iran. It’s a wonderful spot for fun and a picnic. This calm lake is also famous for its heavy current waves blown by the fierce wind in day time especially. It adds another feather in the cap of its bewitching scenario. Along with this, a small Island ‘Zaina Lank’ by name said to be built by ‘Zain ul Abidin’ in the middle of the Lake; marks a picturesque scenario. ‘Mota Khon’ is a native phrase used for the deepest part of this Lake which is also known as ‘The Gulf of Corpses.’ According to the folklore, it is said about this deepest part of the Lake that the bodies immersed in it have not been found to date. So I think that swimming isn’t a wonderful idea here rather than enjoying the calmness of the Lake.
Geography of Wular Lake
This lake is situated at an altitude of 1530 – 80 meters above sea level, 34 kilometers northwest of Srinagar city. It is said that this lake was once spread over 200 square kilometers. Wular Lake is surrounded by high mountain ranges from the northeastern and northwest sides. The basin of this lake forms an alluvial natural area. The Jhelum River and many of its tributaries like ‘Bohnar,’ ‘Madamati,’ ‘Erin’, and ‘Ningal’ drain their water to Wullar Lake. The basin of Jhelum is spread over an area of more than 12000 square kilometers, of which 6 watershed drains fall directly into the lake. The length of this lake is about 16 kilometers and the width is 8 kilometers and it is surrounded by 31 villages out of which 26 villages of nomadic origin are inhabited in the hills surrounding this lake.
Avifauna, Eco System and the Livelihood
This wetland of Kashmir is an important natural migration for fish and the presence of a large number of birds over here. It is a favorite shelter during winter for the migratory birds coming from Central Asia and far-flung Siberia like Shoveler, Common Pochard, Mallard, and Egzet. Apart from them, Himalayan Pied Woodpecker, Monal Pheasant, Marbled Teal, Shot toed Eagle, Little Cuckoo, Pllas Fish Eagle, Sparrow Hawk, Black Eared Kite, Himalayan Golden Eagle, Chukar Partridge, Blue Rock Pigeon, Common Swallow, Golden Oriole, Alpine Swift, Kashmir Roller are found commonly nearby the Lake. Well, I think it’s a win-win tourist destination for the Bird Watchers, Lovers, and Photographers. These local communities depend on this lake and its resources for their livelihood. Wullar Lake is full of fish and the state catches the highest number of fishes from this lake especially. Few renowned species of Aqua Fauna are Cyprinus Carpio, Crossocheilus Latius, Gambusia Affinis, Schizothorax Curvifrons, and Barbus Conchonius. It is an important part of the economy of the state and is also the main source of livelihood for thousands of families living around this lake. The contribution of this lake varies from 23 to 26 percent of the total production of fishes calculated in Jammu and Kashmir. For more than 6 months, fishing is done in the lake. Firstly; March to June and then from October to December. The largest number of fish is found in the month of summer.
Attractions Around or at a Distance
• Magnificent Birding place – Hokersar Wetland
• Anatomy Museum
• Salim Ali National Park
• Kuker Bagh Lake, Manasbal Lake, and Anchar Lake
• Ningal Nullah
• Bandipore Town and Park
• Jama Masjid
• Shalimar Garden and Mughal Garden
• Kashmir Valley and Dal Lake
Well dear readers, do some little homework on your own to know what all these above attractions are and are why famous for and I don’t want to make my blog comprehensive, so do your homework before you make your mind travel to the Valley of Beauty…!
Other sources of Economy
The state government also gets a lot of revenue from this wetland through water chestnut which grows splendidly in the lake area. These water chestnuts are locally known as ‘Paani phal Singhara’ and this is what gets here the most. Water chestnuts are a major source of the local community’s diet and it grows in an area of about 22 square kilometers of the lake that is, about 50 percent of the plants growing in the lake. This plant was traditionally used by the Kashmiris for themselves, but now it is also sold and transported to nearby cities which generate revenue for local communities too. Nearby edges and low altitude areas are used for cultivation of paddy, willow, and fruits like Apple, Pear, Cherry and Apricot. Willow woods are specially used for making cricket bats here. Making of ‘Shikara Boats’ or ‘House Boats’ are quite famous her which is again a part of generating revenue. And lastly, tourism itself is a big part of the economy here in the valley of Jammu and Kashmir.
A slow crisis moving on
Well, this lake of international importance is facing pressure and danger today. According to experts, this lake was once spread over 200 square kilometers, but now it has been reduced to only 60 square kilometers. The deepest of this lake is about 6 meters but now it is becoming shallow. The reason for this worst effect that comes forward is made by humans only. Deforestations for the random development of the local areas are badly affecting this lake. If this is not stopped, it can have serious consequences and even this lake may disappear. The entire basin of Jhelum is in a very bad condition along with the alluvial areas of the lake. Due to this, silt is reaching into the Wullar Lake and causing it to fill or shrink, unfortunately. And the depth of water is also decreasing simultaneously. Sewage’s vast amount reaches the lake directly from Srinagar city and Sopore, Bandipur, and Baramulla. Due to which there is an enlargement in the deoxygenating process (eutrophication) and it affects the species of fish and growth of the fisheries badly.
Resources and Interferences
The flora of Wular Lake is an important part of the lake’s eco-system which always benefits from the environmental point of view and also from the economic point of view. The communities living interior of the lake area have been using these water-growing plants for many purposes; especially for food and cattle feed. Plantation of willow trees even changes the hydrological process of the Lake. These plantations of willow were done by the state government to make the firewood easily available for the natives. These willows even play the role of an obstacle in the alluvial area of the lake which allows the sediment to reach the Lake and as a result, it decreases the quality of water, slowly. More than 42 percent of the families residing nearby the Lake depend upon its water for their daily usages. But due to excessive human interference in nature (Lake) then it may cause water-borne diseases to the Lake residential or users; if not stopped. Few research and exploration team had witnessed at many places the work of mining the mountains on a large scale at Srinagar – Bandipore highway. And due to this a lot of boulders or stones along with silt reaches the Lake and affect its depth negatively.
Efforts for Reviving the Lake’s Beauty
There are pastures fields in the alluvial area of the lake, which are the best cattle feed areas of the sub-nomadic people of Kashmir. Thousands of cattle graze in these pastures and due to excessive grazing; the areas around the lake are in ruining condition. This is again a point which might deprive the natives of getting the benefit of this Lake. And in this way, the landscape of this Lake is changing slowly. Apart from this, due to the suitable weather and wet soil, the seeds present in the cattle dung flourish or grow which reaches the lake from different areas here, and as result, many weeds start to grow in the lake which damages local quality plants and nutritious cattle feed as well. Concerned over the Lake’s continuing deterioration, the Department of Forest and Remote Sensing formed the Wullar Manasbal and Development Authority (Wullar Vantage Park) by the state government to focus on this important and delicate wetland eco-system to handle it properly. The target of this departmental body was to make possible the use of natural resources accurately and to give a new life to this lifeline of Kashmir valley; which is named Wullar Lake. If the lake is given a chance, its slowly vanishing enchantment might return again mysteriously and the balanced charm of Kashmir valley could become even more exciting.
Best of the Timings to Visit Wular Lake
Though the climate of Srinagar is humid subtropical with hot summers. June to August is the time for summer and Rain in September till November while December to February is winter full of snowfall and rest spring. From April till June i.e. spring or the beginning of summer is the valuable time period to witness the bewitched Wullar Lake and its thrills. The same timing goes with the Dal Lake also and for this, you need to know about the Dal Lake and the surroundings. Please read – “Dal Lake: Diadem of the Magnificent Valley Kashmir“
How to Reach the Lake and Accommodations
• By Air: To reach the Wullar Lake, one needs to land in Srinagar which is well connected with airports of New Delhi, Mumbai, Chandigarh and Shimla, and Leh – Ladakh which is again well connected internationally.
• By Rail: The nearest railway station is Jammu which is 153 kilometers away from Srinagar city as the Srinagar city doesn’t have any railway system. Moreover, Jammu is well connected with major cities’ railway lines i.e. New Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, Bangaluru. and Trivandrum.
• By Road: There are good road links connected to the Srinagar city from New Delhi, Chandigarh, Jammu, Sonmarg, Pahalgam, Dalhousie, and others. Tourist vehicles and taxis are always available from these areas up to the Srinagar city.
Accommodations like Adoos Hotel, Hotel Dar-es-salaam, Swiss Hotel, Heevan Resort, Houseboat New Lucky Flower, Green Acre Hotel, Hotel Broadway, Hotel Paradise, Hotel Shangrila and Bloomingdale Hotel and Hotel Vikram are there to facilitate the visitors and tourists.
Well, start doing some homework regarding the current price of the above hotels as it may vary; otherwise one can find something else to stay in on his/her own too like Houseboats or medium lodges.
This part one Blog ends here and hopes you enjoyed reading and collected lots of information. Well for the next part on Dal Lake, if you wish to read further.