Dal Lake: Managing a floating city ecosystem (E)

The scenic Dal Lake situated in the heart of the sprawling city of Srinagar in Kashmir is often referred to as the `liquid heart of Kahmiriyat’ or also called the cradle of civilisation for Kashmir. The houseboats and shikaras give the lake a very special look. Leaving the beauty aside, Dal Lake is a complex ecosystem where humans, biodiversity, and urban systems are intertwined. The Dal Lake feeds off the city of Srinagar and the city of Srinagar feeds off the Dal Lake. There is literally no other similar parallel ecosystem of a high-altitude lake. The Dal Lake is a full-fledged floating city bustling with all kinds of activity with about 60,000 to 70,000 `Dal Dwellers’ dominating the interiors. The flamboyant frontage is undoubtedly dominated by tourists. The management of this lake is very complex and among other things, it houses a very special floating agriculture made on what is called `floating gardens’. Most of the green vegetables for the city of Srinagar are grown on these unique floating gardens. The water in the lake gets polluted leading to outbreaks of algal blooms and weeds like water lily and Salvinia gain ground. The National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) along with Sher-e- Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology, Srinagar had made a massive development plan for the lake. Water management and keeping the ecosystem alive in the midst of a big city pose their own challenges. The management of a high-altitude lake with its unique flora and fauna and the massive human population is a complex developmental issue.

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