Water Report

The Kashmir problem no one talks about: Its water bodies are disappearing

Half of the water bodies in and around Srinagar have disappeared over the last century under the pressure of rapid and badly managed urbanisation

The beautiful Kashmir Valley has over a thousand small and large water bodies, which are the bedrock of both its ecology and its economy. Unfortunately over the last century, massive urbanisation around these water bodies has led to pollution, siltation due to deforestation and overexploitation of the many streams and lakes. Many have shrunk to a fraction of their original size while some have all but disappeared.

According to the State Water Mission, water bodies in Kashmir are the worst victims of human interference and rapid urbanisation. Massive erosion in the catchment area is resulting in these lakes becoming silted up, thereby converting water areas into landmasses.  Other water bodies have disappeared due to natural causes like glacial action and low precipitation. Some are on the verge of extinction.

More than 50% of water bodies in Srinagar and its suburbs have been lost during the past century, Humayun Rashid and Gowher Naseem of Srinagar’s Directorate of Environment, Ecology and Remote Sensing have concluded in a study.

“During the past century, deforestation in the Jhelum basin led to excessive siltation in most of the lakes and water bodies of Srinagar and subsequent human greed brought about sustainable reclamation and land-use change in these assets of high ecological value,” the study said. More than 9,119 hectares of open water surface and wetland have disappeared between 1911 and 2014, while only 6,873 hectares were preserved.



The marshy and water body area of Dal Lake, a major tourist attraction in Srinagar, has shrunk from 2,547 hectares in 1971 to 1,620 hectares in 2008, estimated a paper titled Impact of Urban Land Transformation on Water Bodies. Although it has lost almost half of its water surface area in 40 years, it still looks like a water body. Adjoining lakes like Gilsar, Khushalsar and Aanchar have all but disappeared because the drainage system of the Dal which used to feed these small water bodies has been converted into landmass through heavy siltation.

Shakil Romshoo of Kashmir University’s Earth Sciences department has suggested that measures like de-siltation of water bodies and afforestation programmes in catchment areas of the Jhelum, Kashmir’s major river system, should start on a war-footing while construction should be totally banned in ecologically fragile areas.

“If the indifference of successive governments and the greed of the society at large have led to the degradation of our water bodies, we at least have to think of measures to save them from further degradation before it is too late,” Romshoo said.

Economic fallout

Towns like Pahalgam, Sonamarg, Srinagar and Sopore – must-see places on the tourist map of the valley – owe their existence to water bodies. These include the Lidder River, the Hokarsar wetland, Dal Lake, Wullar Lake and the Manasbal Lake.  According to tourism department officials, over 10 lakh tourists visit these places annually and around three lakh people are directly and indirectly dependent on these tourist places for their livelihood.

The multimillion dollar handicrafts industry of Kashmir, which gives employment to over two lakh people, is also heavily dependent upon the arrival of tourists in the region. A study on the Impact of Tourism Industry on Economic Development of Jammu and Kashmir says that almost 50-60% of the total population of Jammu and Kashmir is directly or indirectly engaged in tourism-related activities. The industry contributes 15% to the state’s GDP.

Another big contribution of Kashmir’s water bodies to the state’s economy is the revenue generated through taxation of water usage for electricity generation by power development agencies like the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation.  According to Jammu and Kashmir’s Economic Survey of 2014, revenue of Rs 24.2 crore has been realised since 2010 on account of water usage charges on hydroelectric projects in the state.

It is estimated that over 1.5 lakh Kashmiris get direct and indirect employment from sand extraction and fishing. Figures available with the geology and mining department suggest that sand worth 15 crore is extracted each year from Kashmir’s water bodies, particularly from the Jhelum and its tributaries, through the organised sector. This does not take into account the fact that 40% of sand extraction – worth Rs 7.5 crore – is carried out illegally, an official said on condition of anonymity.

Fisheries is another big livelihood generation sector linked to the water bodies.  Masood Hussain Balkhi of Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology said that aquatic resources of Jammu and Kashmir form about 16% of the total area of inland aquatic resources of India. Fisheries are an Rs 5.5 crore industry in Kashmir and employ over 90,000 people both directly and indirectly.

His colleague, Farooz Ahmad Bhat, added that annual fish production of the region is 20,000 tonnes. Fish diversity and production in Kashmir have shown a sharp decline over the past few decades and some local fish species had even become endangered and threatened. The ramagurun (Botia birdi), for instance, which was once abundant, has now almost disappeared as has the algaad (Schzothorax niger), Bhat said, blaming encroachment, pollution and siltation.


Massive vegetation growth in Dal Lake is one of the main obstacles in maintaining the glory of the lake. Rapid vegetation growth occurs due to fast accumulation of nutrients as untreated waste flows straight into Dal Lake and other water bodies of the region. (Image by Athar Parvaiz)


Clear and present danger

Having destroyed the water bodies, people have become vulnerable to exacerbated natural disasters like flooding. The September 2014 floods, the worst in Kashmir in six decades, inundated Srinagar and at least 50 villages and killed 200 people, apart from directly affecting 20 lakh people across the region.

“Kashmir Valley is essentially a flood plain of the river Jhelum and its tributaries, rivulets, streams and canals," Aijaz Hassan Ganie, a research fellow at the department of botany in Kashmir University, explained in an article in September that year. "All the valley lakes and the vast associated swamps played an important role in maintaining the uniformity of flows in the river Jhelum. In the past, during the peak summers, whenever the river would flow high, these lakes and swamps used to act as places for storage of excessive water and thereby prevented large areas of the valley from floods.”

While the impact of human activities and natural processes has already put Kashmir’s people in danger, the deterioration of water bodies will intensify further if required measures are not taken in time. Politicians such as Kashmir’s environment minister Bali Bhagat have acknowledged the problem. He said that his department “will definitely look into the causes of deterioration and start taking measures for conservation of water bodies accordingly”.

This article was originally published on thethirdpole.net.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Top picks, best deals and all that you need to know for the Amazon Great Indian Festival

We’ve done the hard work so you can get right to what you want amongst the 40,000+ offers across 4 days.

The Great Indian Festival (21st-24th September) by Amazon is back and it’s more tempting than ever. This edition will cater to everyone, with offers on a range of products from electronics, home appliances, apparel for men and women, personal care, toys, pet products, gourmet foods, gardening accessories and more. With such overwhelming choice of products and a dozen types of offers, it’s not the easiest to find the best deals in time to buy before your find gets sold out. You need a strategy to make sure you avail the best deals. Here’s your guide on how to make the most out of the Great Indian Festival:

Make use of the Amazon trio – Amazon Prime, Amazon Pay and Amazon app

Though the festival officially starts on 21st, Amazon Prime members will have early access starting at 12 noon on 20th September itself, enabling them to grab the best deals first. Sign up for an Amazon Prime account to not miss out on exclusive deals and products. Throughout the festival, Prime members will 30-minute early access to top deals before non-Prime members. At Rs 499/- a year, the Prime membership also brings unlimited Amazon Prime video streaming and quick delivery benefits.

Load your Amazon pay wallet; there’s assured 10% cashback (up to Rs 500). Amazon will also offer incremental cashbacks over and above bank cashbacks on select brands as a part of its Amazon Pay Offers. Shopping from the app would bring to you a whole world of benefits not available to non-app shoppers. App-only deals include flat Rs 1,250 off on hotels on shopping for more than Rs 500, and flat Rs 1,000 off on flights on a roundtrip booking of Rs 5,000 booking from Yatra. Ten lucky shoppers can also win one year of free travel worth Rs 1.5 lakhs.

Plan your shopping

The Great Indian Sale has a wide range of products, offers, flash sales and lightning deals. To make sure you don’t miss out on the best deals, or lose your mind, plan first. Make a list of things you really need or have been putting off buying. If you plan to buy electronics or appliances, do your research on the specs and shortlist the models or features you prefer. Even better, add them to your wishlist so you’re better able to track your preferred products.

Track the deals

There will be lightning deals and golden hour deals throughout the festival period. Keep track to avail the best of them. Golden-hour deals will be active on the Amazon app from 9.00pm-12.00am, while Prime users will have access to exclusive lightning deals. For example, Prime-only flash sales for Redmi 4 will start at 2.00pm and Redmi 4A at 6.00pm on 20th, while Nokia 6 will be available at Rs 1,000 off. There will be BOGO Offers (Buy One Get One free) and Bundle Offers (helping customers convert their TVs to Smart TVs at a fraction of the cost by using Fire TV Stick). Expect exclusive product launches from brands like Xiaomi (Mi Band 2 HRX 32 GB), HP (HP Sprocket Printer) and other launches from Samsung and Apple. The Half-Price Electronics Store (minimum 50% off) and stores offering minimum Rs 15,000 off will allow deal seekers to discover the top discounts.

Big discounts and top picks

The Great Indian Festival is especially a bonanza for those looking to buy electronics and home appliances. Consumers can enjoy a minimum of 25% off on washing machines, 20% off on refrigerators and 20% off on microwaves, besides deals on other appliances. Expect up to 40% off on TVs, along with No-Cost EMI and up to Rs 20,000 off on exchange.

Home Appliances

Our top picks for washing machines are Haier 5.8 Kg Fully Automatic Top Loading at 32% off, and Bosch Fully Automatic Front Loading 6 Kg and 7 Kg, both available at 27% discount. Morphy Richards 20 L Microwave Oven will be available at a discount of 38%.

Our favorite pick on refrigerators is the large-sized Samsung 545 L at 26% off so you can save Rs 22,710.

There are big savings to be made on UV water purifiers as well (up to 35% off), while several 5-star ACs from big brands will be available at greater than 30% discount. Our top pick is the Carrier 1.5 Ton 5-star split AC at 32% off.

Also those looking to upgrade their TV to a smart one can get Rs. 20,000 off by exchanging it for the Sony Bravia 108cm Android TV.

Personal Electronics

There’s good news for Apple fans. The Apple MacBook Air 13.3-inch Laptop 2017 will be available at Rs 55,990, while the iPad will be available at 20% off. Laptops from Lenovo, Dell and HP will be available in the discount range of 20% to 26%. Top deals are Lenovo Tab3 and Yoga Tab at 41% to 38% off. Apple fans wishing to upgrade to the latest in wearable technology can enjoy Rs 8,000 off on the Apple Watch series 2 smartwatch.

If you’re looking for mobile phones, our top deal pick is the LG V20 at Rs 24,999, more than Rs 5000 off from its pre-sale price.

Power banks always come in handy. Check out the Lenovo 13000 mAh power bank at 30% off.

Home printers are a good investment for frequent flyers and those with kids at home. The discounted prices of home printers at the festival means you will never worry about boarding passes and ID documents again. The HP Deskjet basic printer will be available for Rs 1,579 at 40% off and multi-function (printer/ scanner/ Wi-Fi enabled) printers from HP Deskjet and Canon will also available at 33% off.

The sale is a great time to buy Amazon’s native products. Kindle E-readers and Fire TV Stick will be on sale with offers worth Rs 5,000 and Rs 1,000 respectively.

The Amazon Fire Stick
The Amazon Fire Stick

For those of you who have a bottomless collection of movies, music and photos, there is up to 60% off on hard drives and other storage devices. Our top picks are Rs 15,000 and Rs 12,000 off on Seagate Slim 5TB and 4TB hard drives respectively, available from 8.00am to 4.00pm on 21st September.

The sale will see great discounts of up to 60% off on headphones and speakers from the top brands. The 40% off on Bose QC 25 Headphones is our favourite. Top deals are on Logitech speakers with Logitech Z506 Surround Sound 5.1 multimedia Speakers at 60% off and the super compact JBL Go Portable Speaker at 56% off!

Other noteworthy deals

Cameras (up to 55% off) and camera accessories such as tripods, flash lights etc. are available at a good discount. Home surveillance cameras too will be cheaper. These include bullet cameras, dome cameras, simulated cameras, spy cameras and trail and game cameras.

For home medical supplies and equipment, keep an eye on the grooming and personal care section. Weighing scales, blood pressure monitors, glucometers, body fat monitors etc. will be available at a cheaper price.

The sale is also a good time to invest in home and kitchen supplies. Mixer-grinders and juicers could see lightning deals. Don’t ignore essentials like floor mops with wheels, rotating mop replacements, utensils, crockery etc. Tupperware sets, for example, will be more affordable. There are attractive discounts on bags, especially laptop bags, backpacks, diaper bags and luggage carriers.

Interesting finds

While Amazon is extremely convenient for need-based shopping and daily essentials, it is also full of hidden treasures. During the festival, you can find deals on telescopes, polaroid cameras, smoothie makers, gym equipment, gaming consoles and more. So you’ll be able to allow yourself some indulgences!

Small shopping

If you have children, the festival is good time to stock up on gifts for Diwali, Christmas, return gifts etc. On offer are gaming gadgets such as Xbox, dough sets, Touching Tom Cat, Barbies, classic board games such as Life and more. There are also some products that you don’t really need, but kind of do too, such as smartphone and tablet holders, magnetic car mounts for smartphones and mobile charging station wall stands. If you’re looking for enhanced functionality in daily life, do take a look at the Amazon Basics page. On it you’ll find USB cables, kitchen shears, HDMI cables, notebooks, travel cases and other useful things you don’t realise you need.

Check-out process and payment options

Amazon is also offering an entire ecosystem to make shopping more convenient and hassle-free. For the festival duration, Amazon is offering No-Cost EMIs (zero interest EMIs) on consumer durables, appliances and smartphones, plus exchange schemes and easy installation services in 65 cities. HDFC card holders can avail additional 10% cashback on HDFC credit and debit cards. Customers will also get to “Buy Now and Pay in 2018” with HDFC Credit Cards, as the bank offers a 3 Month EMI Holiday during the days of the sale. Use Amazon Pay balance for fast and easy checkouts, quicker refunds and a secured shopping experience.

Sales are fun and with The Great Indian Festival offering big deals on big brands, it definitely calls for at least window shopping. There’s so much more than the above categories, like minimum 50% off on American Tourister luggage! To start the treasure hunt, click here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Amazon.in and not by the Scroll editorial team.