Nainital Lake Reaches Record Low, Locals Plan Barefoot Protest on Saturday

Uttrakhand Chief Minister had transferred the management of the Naini lake from the Public Works Department to the state Irrigation Department, which has been tasked with making plans for its revival.

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The Nainital lake also provides the bulk of drinking water for the town of 60,000.


Nanital:  Thousands of visitors and tourists arriving in the hill town of Nainital are in for surprise. The lake, from which the town gets its name, has gone down by 18 feet from its levels in October, which has exposed large gravel banks along its perimeters at various points.

"The zero level was only reached twice between 1923 and 1980, but between 2000- 2015, Zero level  has been reached ten times," says Dr Vishal Singh, who is one the campaigners working to save the lake.

"This is my second trip here and it is distressing to see the lake shrinking," said Saurabh, a software professional who has come with his family from Delhi for a holiday.

But it is not just the scenery and their heritage that locals are worried about. The Nainital lake also provides the bulk of drinking water for the town of 60,000.

Ironically it is the popularity of the lake which is also the reason for its worsening condition. The sharp dip in water level can be directly linked to the influx of tourists coming to escape heat of the plains. Water consumption has also more than doubled with the arrival of tourists and the summer.

"We urgently need to start a campaign to inform and educate citizens that they have a large part to play in conserving the Nalini lake and the town," said Janhavi Prasad, a resident who runs an eco-home stay in Nainital.

But tourism is not the only factor choking the lake.

"Eleven years ago, Nainital reached its carrying capacity, which means no more homes or hotels could be built due to the limited resources, particularly water. Even the authorities realised and announced this, but that has not stopped the illegal construction," said noted educationist and campaigner Dr Ajay Rawat, who lives in Nainital.

Just 50 meters above Nainital is Sukhatal -- a critical catchment area for the lake -- evidences of encroachment becomes apparent.  More than 18 homes have been illegally built in the area. Each time it rains, these homes get flooded, but homeowners refuse to move. Moreover, they want the government to concretise parts of the catchment area to protect their homes. A parking lot has been built over part of the area by the government.

On Monday, the Uttrakhand Chief Minister had transferred the management of the Naini lake from the Public Works Department to the state Irrigation Department, which has been tasked with making plans for its revival.

But citizens aren't waiting on that. On June 3, hundreds of concerned citizens will hold a barefoot walk around the lake to put focus on the issue.

Cricketer Mohammad Kaif, noted historian Pushpendra Pant and classical vocalist Shubha Mudgal are some of the 1,700-plus people who signed an online petition to ask for measures to save the lake.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)


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