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Saving Wular

December 6, 2023
Wular Lake Kashmir

Wular Lake has for long remained on the fringes of Kashmir tourism. The lake holds the distinction of being one of the 75 Indian wetlands designated as a Ramsar site. Nevertheless, it confronts various environmental challenges, encompassing the transformation of significant portions of the lake’s catchment areas into agricultural land, pollution arising from fertilizers and animal wastes, the hunting of waterfowl and migratory birds and the proliferation of weeds within the lake itself. However, the recent statement of Secretary Tourism Dr. Syed Abid Rasheed Shah, where he emphasised on Wular Lake as a future tourism hotspot, comes at a crucial time when the region is looking to diversify its tourism offerings. Last month, the Wular Conservation and Management Authority approved another ₹59.59 crore work project for next one year to beautify the Wular Lake. As the second-largest freshwater lake in Asia, Wular Lake’s beauty and cultural significance make it an ideal candidate for promotion and development. The lake, spanning over 130 square kilometers, provides ample opportunities for various water-based activities, from boating to fishing. Wular Lake serves as a crucial habitat for fish, with the primary species including the common carp (Cyprinus carpio), rosy barb (Barbus conchonius), mosquitofish (Gambusia affinis), Nemacheilus species, Crossocheilus latius, and diverse snowtrout species belonging to the genera Schizopyge and Schizothorax. Over eight thousand fishermen derive their livelihoods from the lake, predominantly fishing for the endemic Schizothorax species and the non-native carp. This catch represents approximately 60 percent of the total fish yield in Kashmir. Cooperative societies employ hundreds of local villagers involved in trading the fish catch, while many other families gather plants such as the grass Phragmites and the waterlily-like Nymphoides from the lake for use as animal fodder. The Secretary Tourism’s vision for promoting Wular Lake aligns with the need to showcase not just the natural beauty but also the unique cultural heritage surrounding the lake. The promotion of Wular Lake as a tourism destination involves a multifaceted approach, and the government’s commitment to a series of initiatives is a promising sign. Infrastructure development is a critical component, ensuring that the region is equipped to handle an influx of tourists without compromising the ecological integrity of the area. This includes the creation of accessible pathways, designated viewpoints, and facilities that enhance the overall visitor experience. Tourism campaigns, both at the national and international levels, can spotlight the lake’s diverse attractions, from its avian population to the cultural festivities. Collaborations with travel agencies, social media influencers and environmental organizations can further amplify the message, positioning Wular Lake as a must-visit destination for nature enthusiasts and visitors. Preserving the ecological balance of Wular Lake is paramount to its sustainable development as a tourism destination. The government should implement strict guidelines and regulations to protect the lake’s ecosystem, ensuring that the influx of tourists does not jeopardize the delicate equilibrium of flora and fauna. Initiatives for waste management, conservation of biodiversity and community involvement in eco-friendly practices will be integral to safeguarding Wular Lake for future generations.

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