Delhi Government mulls notifying Najafgarh lake as a wetland, survey soon
The Delhi government is considering declaring the Najafgarh jheel (lake) in southwest Delhi a notified wetland. Chief secretary Vijay Kumar Dev has asked the irrigation and flood control department and the Delhi Jal Board (DJB) to conduct an “extensive survey” of the area. Once the area is outlined and conservation plan approved, the lake is expected to cater to west Delhi’s water requirements.
“The departments will carry out an extensive survey and examine the possibility of acquiring, leasing or licensing the jheel land (from private land holdings) and declare it a wetland,” stated the minutes of the meeting of the environment department’s wetland authority, headed by the chief secretary, earlier this month.
According to a senior Delhi government officer, “The survey is required to assess the pondage (the water held in a reservoir) area of the jheel to know the extent of submergence so that it can be delineated in order to be notified as a wetland.”
Currently, the portion of the jheel in Delhi is privately owned across five villages, including Rawta, Ghumanhera, Jainpur, Shikarpur and Jhatikra.
Once the survey is complete, the revenue department will be working out an arrangement with farmers (land owners) to acquire or lease the land, the officer said.
“Once the conservation and development plan for the wetland is approved and implemented, it is expected to meet the water supply needs of west Delhi area,” said Nisheeth Saxena, member secretary of the wetland authority.
According to officials, the lake, which already has a large number of birds flocking to it throughout the year, will also serve as a habitat for avifauna species.
According to Surya Prakash, scientific officer, school of life sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, every year hundreds of flamingos, common cranes, sarus crane, painted storks, black-necked storks and different kinds of migratory bird species flock to the lake. “This is mainly because the lake has a good spread and there is minimum human interference. It also has a large number of fishes,” Prakash said.
The plan is also likely to include developing the area as a recreational spot, as it has huge potential for eco-tourism, the Delhi government officer said.
The departments are to undertake the survey with the help of Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), an NGO working in the field of heritage conservation. In 2014, INTACH had filed a plea in the National Green Tribunal (NGT) to conserve and protect the Najafgarh lake, after which the panel had asked the Delhi and Haryana (through which a part of the jheel flows) governments to take steps in the direction.
“We will be working with the government to survey the area falling under the five villages. The Najafgarh jheel was part of Sahibi river, which flowed from Rajasthan. The 1883 Gazetteer of Delhi shows the spread of the lake as 220 square kilometres. The Jheel used to dry out, as it was a seasonal water body and during the rabi season, farmers would sow on its bed. This is how private land holdings came into the picture,” said Manu Bhatnagar, principal director, natural heritage division, INTACH.
At present, he said, the lake in Delhi is spread over around 3.56sqkm. During the floods of 1958, the spread of the lake came close to 145sqkm, after which the Delhi government erected embankments along the Delhi-Gurugram border, which ran through the middle of the lake, in order to prevent flooding in the city.
“An estimated 20mgd(million gallons per day) water can be supplied from the lake, which can cater to around nine lakh people. Even Gurugram can benefit from conservation of the water body,” Bhatnagar said.