Saturday, February 4, 2012

Fazilka loses historical lake to govt apathy

Praful Chander Nagpal

Fazilka, February 3
While the world celebrated the Wetland Day with the slogan "water is life", the historical Badha lake of Fazilka is bereft of even a drop of water.

At present, cultivation is being carried out on about 48 acres of wetland area. The land is owned by the village Badha panchayat and it has been leased out to the farmers.

As per sources, between 1844-1946, the lake was the source of drinking water for the people of the town. Till the 80s, the lake was full of water and supported various species of migratory birds here. But it gradually dried up and became extinct in the 90s.

The man-made hurdles and barriers stopped the flow of water from the Sutlej creek leaving it with no source of water. The overflow of water from the Sutlej creek used to recharge the lake every year. With the passage of time, when the source of water dried up, the water in the lake evaporated and in this way, another wetland area succumbed to official indifference.

"No efforts were made to save the wetland area as the government failed to provide any source of water to keep the lake alive," rued Social Welfare Society president Raj Kishore Kalra.

According to the patron of the Graduate Welfare Association, Fazilka, (GWAF) Bhupinder Singh, retired professor, IIT, Roorkee, "This has affected the ecology badly and has left the small horse-shoe lake on its banks dry."

As per official sources, the Punjab State Council for Science and Technology (PSCST) submitted a report to the state environment department stating that the conservation of the wetland is essential.

"Repeated attempts have been made to construct colonies in this ecologically fragile area but vigilant locals have helped stop the area from becoming a concrete jungle," says Navdeep Asija, general secretary, GWAF.

In 1844, a Britisher, Pat Van Agnew, constructed his bungalow (presently DC camp office-cum-residence) on the bank of the Badha lake. He was impressed with the bio-diversity and environment of the area.

"Today, because of the criminal negligence of the authorities concerned and the greed of man, Fazilka has almost lost the lake, due to which our city came into existence," said Asija.

"The only ray of hope for the people of the Fazilka region is recharging the Badha lake wetland with fresh water feed from river Satluj through the existing network of canals. The 17 acre of Panchayat Shamlat (common land) is using the canal water for irrigation. The same route can be used to recharge this low-lying lake followed by removing man-made obstructions and encroachments on the original natural route of the lake's recharging. This will not only maintain the bio-diversity, but also improve the quality of groundwater in the area," suggests Asija.

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