Chandigarh’s Sukhna and Nainital’s Naini lakes are going dry. Here’s why

My father told me how Nainital’s Naini lake had almost dried. I was taken aback by the news but not really surprised given out utter ignorance of water systems while growing. Most lakes and rivers which flowed during your childhood have either dried or on the verge of drying. The several bridges which were built to cross these water bodies are just staring at dry beds for most part of the year. Just during rains some might fill only to remain dry for the remaining part of the year.

Now one gets news over Chandigarh’s Sukhna lake also drying up. The reasons for all such crises is mostly one: sapiens incessant greed. Rampant construction, complete ignorance of local conditions, rise of fancier hotels and what not. Sapiens amaze you each time.

Hindustan Times spoke to Susmita Sengupta, programme manager (Water), Centre for Science and Environment, on why India’s lakes are going dry.

KD: Chandigarh’s Sukhna Lake and Nainital’s Naini Lake are almost dry. Why is this happening?

SS: Both the lakes are in poor state due to the apathy of the government departments that are in charge of these lakes. There are also reports on reduction of rainfall in these areas. In case of the Naini Lake, rapid population growth, uncontrolled expansion of tourism, deforestation in the catchment area, unrestricted building activities on the slopes, frequent landslides and direct discharge of sewage are playing havoc with the lake and its ecology. In the case of Sukhna, there has been huge silt flow thanks to unplanned urbanization in the catchment area.

KD: Urban water bodies are neglected across India…

SS: This is because urban planners cannot see beyond land and so the land that holds water is no longer valued or protected. Today, urban water bodies or systems are seen only as ‘holes in the ground’, a lucrative real estate for builders or the last resort for slum dwellers or garbage dumps.

As a result, water bodies and their catchment areas have been encroached upon or taken away for housing and other buildings –by default and intent, by the poor and the rich, alike. There aren’t clear laws to protect urban water bodies and their catchment. Instead there are too many corrupt authorities. The catchment area of a lake is invariably in the hands of multiple agencies. The channels, drains, that bring water to the water body are lost or are full of garbage and sewage. Lake preservation is not limited to the lake area, but is also dependent on the catchment area and the drains that bring rainwater into the lake.

It is high time we act on these depressing developments seriously.


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