Dharamshala’s famous Dal Lake dries up as winter sets in
With the onset of winters, the famous Dal Lake in Naddi village on the outskirts of Dharamshala town has almost dried up — an issue persisting for over a decade and a half, resulting in death of hundreds of fish.
Ashok Sharma, a local, said when elders of the village came to the lake this morning, they saw fish stuck in drying mud and perishing. “Some local youth gathered here and started the efforts to save the fish and also informed the administration,” said Sharma.
Located 1,775 metre above the sea level amid thick cedar forest, the lake that once had crystal clear water is dying a slow death. The waterbody has gradually lost its storage capacity due to rapid silting and continuous seepage. This has further affected the flora and fauna in its catchment areas.
“Almost every winter, the lake dries up and is reduced to a mud pond. The government claims to have spent crores on the lake but in reality, nothing has happened on ground. If they had fixed it why doesn’t the problem go,” asked Sharma, who was visibly angry over the government’s failure to save the water body.
Apart from being a tourist destination, the lake also holds importance for locals from religious point of view as they consider it as sacred as Manimahesh Lake in Chamba. The devotees who can’t go to Manimahesh Lake take the holy dip here.
Meanwhile, Dharamshala subdivisional magistrate Shilpi Beakta, who visited the spot, said the Jal Shakti department has started the mitigation efforts. “We are pumping water into the lake so that the fish survive. The fish from the lake will be transferred to some other waterbody and then we will look what can be done,” she added. Beakta said she would study the previous reports and also submit a fresh report to the higher authorities.
Previous efforts remained futile
The problem of silting and seepage first appeared in mid-2000s. The local administration started desilting and restoration work in 2008, but it instead aggravated the problem as the lake completely dried up. Locals alleged that lake started losing more water rapidly after desilting was done using earthmovers under a joint project carried out by the tourism and forest departments in 2008. An amount of ₹40 lakh was spent on the exercise but it bore negative impact due to restoration work done in unscientific manner and against the advice of geological experts from IIT-Roorkee, who had conducted a research on the lake.
Later, a restoration project worth ₹70 lakh was approved to plug the leakage, but that too didn’t work. In 2018, the Centre had sanctioned ₹4 crore for the restoration and beautification of Dal Lake, but no change is visible as of now.
Kangra deputy commissioner Nipun Jindal said the Jal Shakti department has recharged the waterbody by pumping water into it. “Fish are being transferred. We will conduct an interdepartmental meeting soon to work out a long-term solution to the problem,” he added.