Surinsar-Mansar lakes face existential threat

Mansar lake dried up in some areas. -Excelsior/Gautam
Mansar lake dried up in some areas. -Excelsior/Gautam

Avtar Bhat
JAMMU, Oct 9: With no concrete action plan in sight for the development of Mansar and Surinsar  -the twin lakes of Jammu region are facing the existential threat with their space shrinking day by day.
According to experts lack of attention by the successive Governments for the development of these two lakes falling in Udhampur and Jammu districts respectively is posing a serious threat to their existence as well as the flora and fauna of the area.
The flow of effluents, garbage and solid waste in Mansar is a cause of concern for environmentalists who apprehend that this famous lake may extinct some day as its space is shrinking day by day due to negligence of the successive Governments, who failed to initiate any concrete plan for its development and protection over the years on the pattern of Dal and other lakes of Kashmir valley, the experts added.
Despite the directives given by Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti while chairing a meeting of Mansar and Billawar Duggan Tourism Development Authority in July this year regarding pacing up of works, no headway has been made in this regard and this has generated a lot of public resentment against the concerned authorities also.
The CM, who chaired the Governing Body meeting of the Surinsar –Mansar and Billawar –Duggan Tourism Development Authorities issued directives of raising eco friendly cottage structures at tourist places which can easily get with the local ecology and avoid concretization of these fragile zones. She said the Surinsar could easily be co-opted into  MICE Tourism (holding of Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, Exhibitions and Events) given its proximity with the capital city. In spite of CM’s directives for starting boat rides in the local lake of Surinsar for which Tourism and other departments were asked to take joint surveys the work is going at a snail’s pace.
Concerned over the apathy of the Government towards the Mansar lake which is spread over 1229 kanals of the land, the local residents of the area said that its space is shrinking day by day now. “Thirty years back the water of the lake touched the foot path as well as the path of Sheshnag temple and people going to pay obeisance at the holy temple had to cross through water but now this entire portion is dry and water level receded up to four feet from the foot path”, said Vijay Gupta president Beopar Mandal Mansar.
“The Surinsar and Mansar Tourism Development Authority has been created over 11 years back and during last over one decade no concrete proposal was framed by it for the development of these twin tourist destinations of Jammu,” said Kirpal Singh, ex Sarpanch and a social activist.
He said despite having a religious significance and being among the best picnic spots of Jammu region which can attract the visitors as well as pilgrims from various areas of the region including neighboring States of Punjab and HP, the Government never showed its keenness in the development of these two lakes of Jammu.
He said both these lakes are in a dying state at present and they will dry up one day in case the Government continues to neglect them. The flow of effluents, soil waste from some localities in the area, garbage and other organic material in the lake is not only polluting the water but also eroding its religious sanctity.
The weeds have grown in the these two lakes and unlike Dal lake there is no plan of removing moss, weeds and other form of water plants from them. He said there is also no proper coordination between various Government agencies responsible for maintenance and development of the two lakes. They included the Mansar, Surinsar Development Authority, Wild Life Authority, Tourism Department and the R&B Department. This is one of the main handicaps in the development of the twin lakes as one of the best tourist spots of Jammu region, he added.
The issue was also raised many times in the State Assembly by the then MLA of Ramnagar and NPP leader Harsh Dev Singh as well as the present MLA, R S Pathania but it seems the maintenance of the lake has never been a priority for the State Government. The authorities are so callous to the development and preservation of the lake that the wastage of Wild Life Sanctuary at Mansar flows into the lake as there is no proper outlet for it, said Singh.
He said even the entire wastage of Bus Stand Mansar also finds its way into lake which has become a dustbin for the area.
However, the authorities as well as present MLA, R S Pathania are optimistic about the  development of twin lakes and restoring their pristine glory to them.
The officials said that lot of headway has been made so far as the development of two water bodies in the area are concerned. The one of the main handicap for Mansar was that earlier it had no proper road connectivity with other parts of State as the road from Mansar Morh Samba to Mansar was totally damaged and for developing this picnic spot the authorities first of all constructed the road, they added.
Moreover, a project report for Rs 80 crore has been submitted to higher authorities for the development of twin lakes.
MLA Ramnagar, R S Pathania, who also exuded confidence in the development of twin lakes, said he has been vigorously pursuing the project with the State as well as Central Governments.
Admitting that the lake was shrinking as no attention has been paid to its development over the years, he said total refuse of the area was flowing in the lake and besides,  polluting the water it is posing a threat to marine life also. The Mansar and Surinsar lakes are historical religious tourism destinations and it needs the same commitment from the Government for their development which it has shown for the Dal Lake in Kashmir valley.
He said a Master Plan for the development of the lake has been framed and after its approval the development of the twin lakes on the basis of modern techniques will take place.
Denying the allegations that Wild Life has not taken proper steps for the development of the twin lakes the Regional Wild Life Warden, Dr V Kumar Sinthal said that desilting of the lakes is done after one or two months regularly and the sewerage treatment plan for Mansar is in pipeline so that the effluents do not go into the lake. A research work has also been started on preserving of fish in water and shifting of extra fish which can’t survive in water if their number exceeds to required number that can survive in the particular space and quantity of water.
He said at Mansar Rescue Centre has been constructed and with the collaboration of Tourism Development Authority the Natural Interpretation Centre is also being developed  which will crate awareness about Wild Life.
He said lake de-silting is being done timely. The Regional Wild Life Warden also said that in Surinsar boating will be started within two weeks. He said a 32 lakh project has been submitted for purchase of rescue boats for Surinsar besides the ecology of the area is being studied and for the development of surrounding areas inspection, view point and paths have been constructed.
The CEO of Surinsar Mansar Development Authority, Arvind Kotwal said that a building has been already constructed at Mansar by the Authority in which the electronic and Video games are being played. Besides, the folic and fun park for children and a restaurant for tourists has been constructed which have been out sourced.
In addition to it, Amphi Centre (Open air theatre) for cultural activities has been constructed at Surinsar and in coming months it will be opened for cultural activities, he added.