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Rehabilitation of Dal dwellers our topmost priority: VC LAWDA Bashir Ahmad Bhat
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Rehabilitation of Dal dwellers our topmost priority: VC LAWDA Bashir Ahmad Bhat

Conservation of Dal and Nigeen Lakes on scientific expertise, people’s cooperation to make the two water bodies clean from all pollutants and rehabilitation of Dal dwellers are the topmost priorities of new Vice-Chairman Lakes & Waterways Development Au

Post by on Monday, June 14, 2021

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Conservation of Dal and Nigeen Lakes on scientific expertise, people’s cooperation to make the two water bodies clean from all pollutants and rehabilitation of Dal dwellers are the topmost priorities of new Vice-Chairman Lakes & Waterways Development Authority (LAWDA) Bashir Ahmad Bhat (IRS) who assumed the office just a month ago. While speaking to Rising Kashmir’s city correspondent Irfan A Mir, VC LAWDA talked on key issues in length. Here are the excerpts of the interview.


Lot has been said about the conservation of Dal &Nigeen Lakes but on ground little has changed? Can you comment on that?

Dal and Nigeen Lakes are our natural assets that need to be protected with scientific opinion taken into account. Since I assumed the office, I drafted a multi-pronged strategy for their conservation. I have prioritized issues to deal with them in a specific period which includes catchment conservation of Dal &Nigeen Lakes, de-weeding & dredging, to control the construction of unlawful structures, to ensure smooth functioning of Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs) and most importantly the rehabilitation of Dal dwellers. 


What is the logic behind LAWDA continuously carrying out de-weeding & dredging exercises? Has it been effective?

First of all, I want to clarify here that de-weeding & dredging exercises should not be seen superficially. A layman can’t judge things when he/she is not taking scientific expertise into account. Dal Lake has a 337 sq km’s catchment area. We have TelbalDachigamNala that flushes water into Dal along with huge silt which is the main reason for the re-growing of weeds and other unwanted greens. To stop the silt into Dal is a major concern and for that matter, LAWDA a year ago had established a Settling Base at Telbal where silt is being removed. Since the establishment of Telbal Settling Base (TSB) LAWDA has removed 70,000 cubic meters of silt.


There are reports that the water flushing into Dal possesses a lot of silt despite the Telbal Settling Base. What is your take?

The reports are not true. We have pressed our men and machinery who are working vigorously there to ensure the water flushed into Dal would be silt free. Besides TSB, we are doing awareness among people living in the jurisdiction of Dal. Further, the LAWDA is going to plant one-lac saplings by the end of this year to make the surface of areas strong where silt comes and stop the erosion of banks in the borders of Dal.


The process of de-weeding has been going for a long time but there is no let-up in the regrowth of weeds. Where is the fault?

In Dal Lake, we have a 16.3 sq km’s area where weeds are spread. Among this portion, we have a 9.75 sq km’s area that is covered up with Macrophytes and due to no silt removed in the past, these weeds are having nutrient enrichment that fuels the spread of weeds in the area. There are few pockets that witness Macrophytes. We need to deal scientifically with the question of weed regrowth. The Expert Committee suggested only 50% of weeds should be removed while the rest of the 50% needs to be kept there. We can’t uproot the weeds once as it can prove disastrous for the survival of the lake. The de-weeding exercises are being conducted manually and mechanically. From the shoreline to 60-meters we use manual de-weeding while beyond 60-meters we use machinery. If weeds are removed fully it will cause unwanted weeds in the water body and will be the reason for the death of the lake's ecosystem. We have drafted a policy about the removal of weeds and I assure you that within two years the lily weed will be removed from the Dal and Nigeen Lakes. For this, LAWDA is going to procure Lily extraction machines by the end of this year.


How much area was cleaned from weeds in 2020?

The weed spread over 1.4 sq km was removed last year and we should know that the regrowth of lily weed is a recurrence cycle.


Has LAWDA failed to put curbs over unlawful construction in the jurisdiction of Dal?

LAWDA has prohibited raising structures within the radius of 200-meters of Dal Lake. Besides, there is an LDA jurisdiction area where locals have to apply for building permissions before constructions. We have experts who deal with the Building Permission Act (BPA). People living in LDA jurisdiction should apply for permissions as there is no room for illegal constructions. We have not failed to stop violations rather we are taking cognizance of violations once reported. If you check records, we have demolished 180 structures that were raised illegally since April 1 of this year. Subsequently, we initiated legal action against the violators and lodged FIRs against them. Since 2015 LAWDA has lodged 1058 FIRs against the violators. There is no question of failure. Since I joined the office, I passed on strict directions to my field staff to keep strict vigil in their respective areas and take instant action against law-breaking elements. It is why I suspended four of my field officials a few days ago who didn’t report to the office about illegal construction in their areas. I do not keep my eyes closed over violations. 


LAWDA is accused of going after only poor while influential people are untouched and raising structures in broad daylight?

No, it is incorrect. No one is above the law. The LAWDA has recently installed 5 Close Circuit Television (CCTV) Camera’s on strategic locations from ObroiGhat to Habak aimed to keep close vigil over the activities going on in and around Dal Lake. To enhance the vigil over unlawful activities, LAWDA will install 15 more CCTVs in the coming two months.


The area of Dal Lake is getting squeezed day by day. How is LAWDA dealing with that?

This year we came up with a Bathymetric Survey that allowed us to measure the depth of the water body as well as the mapping of the underwater feature of the Dal. This survey has been conducted for the first time. We have also devised a dredging plan for the water body. This is all aimed to keep eye on encroachments etc.


What about the rehabilitation of Dal dwellers who often accuse LAWDA of poor treatment?

Rehabilitation of Dal dwellers is our topmost priority. When we talk about Dal we should not ignore Dal dwellers. They are part and parcel of Dal. They have priority and have a primary right. The LAWDA’s treatment of them should not be misreported. Few media outlets are spreading misinformation in this regard without fetching actual details. We can’t keep Dal clean from pollutants without taking Dal dwellers on board. As per records, we have 9461 families living in Dal areas living in 60-hamlets. We have settled a few colonies in the city where Dal dwellers had been shifted. In Rakh-e-Arth, Panchkarwari, Gulshan Bagh, Fisherman Colony etc we have rehabilitated 3250 families so far. 


There are allegations that money allocated for the conservation of Dal is getting wasted or embezzled. What is your take?

You can’t accuse any person or institution without having any concrete evidence. Those who accuse us that LAWDA wasted money in futile exercise must visit our offices to check the facts. The amount allocated for the conservation of Dal doesn’t mean it is only specified for extractions of weeds. We have rehabilitated Dal dwellers and provided them with plots and residencies. We had made Sewerage Treatment Plants (STPs). We have made a functional Settling Base at Telbal which helps us in the removal of silt from the water. We have to hire men and machinery for de-weeding, besides keeping vigil over illegal activities through digital mode. How will these expenses come? The package for the conservation of Dal Lake includes all such offshoots.


Your message to people?

I request people living in the jurisdiction of Dal to don’t resort to illegal constructions. They should apply for proper building permits. We will ensure regular meetings of the Building Permission Act (BPA) as per the demand and will ascertain the pleas accordingly. My request to people, in general, is that if they have any plan for the preservation of water bodies, they should visit my office and share their valuable suggestions. 




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