The four-month long unrest in Kashmir has taken a toll on one silent victim besides leaving many people dead and injured: Dal lake. Encroachment and failure to initiate conservation measures have lead the world-famous lake shrunk and stinking.
The separatists' shutdown calendars and the authorities' curfew have provided a cover to illegal construction in and around the Dal lake.
"We seized four trucks carrying construction material near Nishat area two days ago," sub-division police officer, Nehru Park, Muzaffar Ahmad Shah told the Hindustan Times.
The police have prepared a list of construction works taking place in and around the lake.
"A fresh verification will be carried out. The final action has to be taken by the lakes and Waterways Development Authority (LAWDA)," said Shah. There are reports of construction material being ferried in shikaras (small boats).
The J-K high court has banned new construction in the demarcated green zone area to preserve the lake. The LAWDA has failed to stop the illegal construction in the last four months because of the unrest.
There are rampant illegal constructions in Rainawari- Saida Kadal- Foreshore belt and Dalgate-Nishat-Teilbal belt. In Kand area, the interiors of Dal lake, behind Nehru Park, the encroachers have demarcated water bodies with sand bags and filled it with earth to convert the water body into land for cultivation.
"The government has diverted the police force made available to the LAWDA to maintain law and order. The department has no police wing right now to battle encroachers," said a senior LAWDA official on the condition of anonymity.
LAWDA vice-chairman Irfan Yasin refused to comment on the issue: "I am busy in a marriage party."
The curfew and security restrictions have also crippled LAWDA's Dal lake conservation initiatives. The de-weeding could not be taken up for most of the days in the last three months because of curfew and stringent security restrictions.
"During curfew, we were not allowed to dump weeds on boulevard for final dumping," said Mohi-ud-Din, a shikara-owner working with LAWDA, which hires nearly 500 Dal-dwellers for manual de-weeding.
Unattended for a long period, the lake is attacked by obnoxious water-fern Azolla. Influx of effluent has spurred the growth of Azolla, which blocks sunlight to its flora and fauna.
The Central government has sanctioned a grant of 3.56 billion rupees for conservation of the lake. The state government has sanctioned Rs 356 crore to buy high-tech machines for cleaning of the lake.