The name Dal Lake has been taken from one of the most famous natural lakes in Kashmir called Dal Lake. It is a small mid-altitude lake, located at an altitude of 1,775 m above sea level, near the village of Tota Rani, 10 kms from Dharamsala in district Kangra, HP. It is 2 kms walk from Macleodganj bazaar. Total area of the lake is 10000 sq meters.
Every year during the month of September, a fair is held when large numbers of people, mostly gaddi tribe come to this place and celebrates the festival in honour of Lord Shiva. There is also a temple dedicated to sage Durvasa. There is belief that a dip in this lake can purge you from all sins. It is also believed that one who is not able to visit Manimahesh can take a dip here and get purified of sins as water from Manimahesh trickles down underneath to this lake.
The area around the Dal Lake is a natural paradise. The lake is surrounded by deodar trees and one can enjoy the cool and refreshing natural environs. Dal Lake falls on the road to Naddi, a beautiful place near Dharamshala. Another road branches off from the Dal Lake road to Strawberry Hills, a very fine place to explore around Dal. There are different kinds of fish in the lake. This lake has greenish water. One can easily reach the lake by bus, taxi or just by walking. The lake is surrounded by deodar trees and one can enjoy the cool and refreshing natural environs.
The Malady Affecting the Lake
Unfortunately, over the years due to anthropogenic and continued silting from the surrounding hills, the lake has been swallowed away by the huge load of silt. More than 30 per cent area of the lake has shrunk and turned out into a meadow. As per revenue records, the area of the lake was about 1.22 hectare or 12,200 sq m. However, due to silting, it has been reduced to half. The depth of lake, which was about 10 ft, has also been reduced. Coupled with it, the natural system of purification of lake has also got disturbed. The leakage of lake waters prevented the water to overflow. It disturbed the natural cleaning system of the lake. The lake has further been plagued by large scale pollution due to the increase of population in its catchments area and due to feeding to fish which got multiplied here disproportionately to the capacity of the lake and its waters. On the advice of the Fisheries Department, the fish had to be transferred to other location to save it from death before the de-silting work began.
Therefore, the Kangra district administration launched a mammoth initiative to save the Dal Lake which is a natural water body and is vital for the ecosystem of the surrounding hills. A massive operation with the help of locals was launched for resurrecting the lake. The silt that was taken was used to create a parking lot near the temple area. The locals volunteered for the job as the lake is sacred to them. Over 100 women from the nearby areas were engaged in the task of digging silt. The administration tried to remove maximum silt before the offset of monsoon.
However, till check dams are constructed in the surrounding mountains to stop the silt from flowing into lake, its degeneration cannot be stopped. The locals say about a decade ago the lake used to remain filled with water all through the year. However, due to its reduced depth water now recedes to a small portion during summer.
The Kangra Administration assigned roles and responsibilities to various departments involved in this mammoth exercise, as follows:-
Public Works Department
Ø Providing exit for muck coming to lake during monsoon season on the western edge of the lake
Ø Construction of parking on the Strawberry Road
Ø Diversion of debris and muck
Ø Preparation of landscape plan for the lake
Ø Fencing of the remaining area
Ø Plantation in the catchments area of the lake during this monsoon season
Ø De-silting of the check dams
Ø Raising of retaining wall on the northern side of the lake
Irrigation and Health Department
Ø Preparing a Plan for the plugging the leakage of the lake waters
Ø Plan for future de-siltation – designing of sluice gate and fixing thereof
Ø Scheme for augmenting the lake waters
Ø Follow – up with the Asian Development Bank or any other funding agency for sanction of the project submitted for the de-silting and revival of the lake
Ø Canalization of flow to the lake on the eastern side.
Ø Maintenance of cleanliness on the catchment area of the eastern side of the lake.
Ø Assistance in the de-siltation of the lake.
Ø Safety of the fish
Ø Undertaking de-silting of lake through NREGA and other Govt. Schemes.
Ø Soil conservation works along Northern Side of the Lake
Ø Ban on grazing in the catchments area of the lake
Ø Stoppage of muck coming to lake from the western side (Naddi side)
Kangra District Administration site on the restoration/de-siltation work
The initiative and the exercise taken by Kangra District administration and all those involved, in the restoration and preservation of this beautiful natural lake is laudable and praiseworthy. Wish similar initiative is undertaken for Khajjiar and Sanasar lake (in J&K).