By Himanshu Shekhar:
There is a city in the foothills of Kumaon, Uttarakhand. Its name is Kashipur, and I am a part-time resident of this town since 2010. While it is a beautiful and peaceful town that currently seems to be partially submerged in the sea of development, the downside is that this comes with issues of its own. However what strikes me the most, is the lakes of this town and how we seem to be killing them one-by-one without any fear of consequences.
Just a few years back, there used to be more than eight lakes in and around the town, now there are only two. Six of them are currently missing from the town’s map. It is time to face the cold fact that we are killing our lakes, slowly! Because slow and steady, wins the race of development. Since 1947, a significant number of lakes and ponds have vanished from Uttarakhand.
There is a small and beautiful lake called Giri Taal or Giri Lake. With an area of around 500 x 150 square meters, this beautiful lake is surrounded by mango trees, pavements to walk and amazing greenery. When I saw this lake for the first time in 2010, it was full of water, complete with a restaurant and a contractor offering boat rides in the lake. Since then, the situation of the lake has only degraded and has reached such a level, that certain youths on the other side of the lake have made their own makeshift volleyball court in the dry base of the lake.
The lake was so beautiful and boasted plenty of greenery that few decades back, KMVN, the body for tourism development of the area, came up with the first tourist guest house, apart from the ones in the hills, just near the lake.
There is a not-so-discreet manner through which we are murdering our lakes. This would consist of teaching children not to bother about nature and we will soon have a society where no one will care about it. They will see a lake, nearby that is dying but they will hardly be sensitive towards that anymore. They will see the construction companies filling them and much more.
Here is how we are specifically doing it here. The following is a case study of sorts:
First of all, the lake is not under any government body. It is being privately held by a temple trust that is short on finance and is not able to take proper care of the lake. In fact, the lake is not even under the Municipal Corporation of the city and the Mayor. The water to the lake is provided by the irrigation department from a canal passing nearby. A few years back, the irrigation department stopped the supply of water because the trust had stopped asking for the same. So, when the water level went really down and almost reached an end, the trust signed contracts with a couple of farmers to grow vegetables and share the revenue as well.
Apart from that, no one was bothered about the condition. This would include the high-end Giritaal society near the lake, the posh lake view bungalow owners, the ward members and the local lawmakers as well. No one is reaching out to the irrigation department for water. It is unclear as to who will finance the clearing of silt to increase the depth of the lake. Even the tourism department is spending significant sums of money every year.Where is it going?
Very soon, there is a great possibility that the lake will completely die and the poor trust will allot the land to some builder to construct a new colony in the name of development. Then, like Katorataal, we will say that there used to be a lake, but now it’s a colony.
I am responsible that I took so much time to raise my voice and put my thoughts into words. The local people are responsible for not being sensitive towards their own lake just because they have running taps in their washrooms and kitchens. The local lawmakers are responsible because they can’t be bothered to connect themselves with the issues of the town they belong to. The various departments are responsible for not using their authority to save what belongs to them. The environment and tourism department are responsible. And finally, our chief minister is responsible.
We are responsible.
The solution is really simple. We need to wake up! Can’t we do even that? If the place is of significance for tourism , the respective department should work with the local government body to undertake it and be more responsible towards it. Let not any poor trust handle that. The irrigation department is ready to provide water, so it is necessary to develop a proper channel for regular communication with the department. Plant more trees around the lake, not the fancy ones but the indigenous ones. Take the silt out regularly and ask the local colonies not to throw their waste in and around the lake.. Run a campaign, involve school and college students, increase the sensitivity towards nature and let them realize that running taps in your homes are not an alternative to the lakes around you. If they die, we die! Just wake up. Save your lake.
We need to understand that nature and society are in inseparably bonded. I keep visiting this pond that I am talking about. It is a shame that many people here do not understand that the biggest temple is that pond, which we all are trying to destroy. It doesn’t matter how many prayers we say, almighty will only be pleased when we start respecting his blessings. Let’s not make this situation similar to what’s happening in Bengaluru.