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Dal Lake Preservation

The water of Dal Lake used to be so clean that people could drink the water straight from the lake. 

But now Dal Lake has been a victim of the environmental pollution that originates from human activity.  This has caused drastic ecological changes that are pushing the water body to the brink of extinction.

In October 2015 a Functions & Elements analysis activity focussed on Dal Lake in Kashmir with the following scenario given to groups of PDC students:

‘A group of people wish to save a lake in Kashmir, this lake is surrounded by mountains and forests as well as an urban population of approximately 200,000 people. This population doubles in the summer time due to tourists being accommodated often on houseboats on the lake or hotels nearby.’

  • In 50 years the lake has halved in surface area and at this rate there may be less than 20 years of life left for the lake

  • Silting-up is a major cause of loss of lake area

  • Houses that used to be on the edge of the lake are now behind multiple layers of buildings, erected on the silt which used to be submerged under the lake

  • Sewerage enters the lake and is polluting the remainder of the water resulting in large algal blooms which are periodically dredged and disposed of.

1. What would/could be the necessary ‘function(s)’ of a ‘group of people’ who wish to save the lake?

For example, the PDC participants were asked to consider what sort of functions (and thereby skill sets, experiences, focus etc.) may be needed for a group of people who wish to save the lake? The following functions were identified and are outlined here in no particular order:

  • Research the problems (why is it silting up? What effect is the siltation having on the life of the lake? What other sources of pollution are there?)

  • Research the solutions (What methods are there to reduce siltation? What options are there to improve the water quality? How will we know/monitor/evaluate the improvements?)

  • Prevent worsening of the situation (at what point is enough enough? What base line data can be collected? How can we try to ensure that do not get any worse – what are the minimum activities for maximum effects?)

  • Communication is identified as one of the key functions of any group of people who are going to successfully improve the conditions of the lake. This was expanded into:

         - Communication with local community

         - Communication with Tourists and visitors

         - Communication with Government

         - Communication with Landowners lake side and upstream

         - Communication with businesses and research bodies to help identify viable solutions

  • Publicity / education/ communication with the wider community and internationally

  • Regeneration (Of both the lake environment and local community) Activities that help to repair the lake, increasing community involvement and benefitting both the local environment and wildlife as well as the local communities.

  • Future plan (Management plan for effective resilience, how to continue to improve and repair, regenerate the lake, how to turn problems into solutions, generate local businesses and help eradicate poverty.


The following question was then asked:

2) What ‘elements’ would/could be in a ‘solutions tool kit’ of a ‘group of people’ who wish to save the lake?

For example, the PDC participants were asked to consider what sort of things could be done to help save the lake? This is given an ideal situation where ‘anything is possible’ the groups are asked to not limit their responses at this stage with concerns such as budgets and other barriers. Again these are presented as they arose and not in any particular order:

  • Edge planting – help to repair the lake by ensuring that access to the edges is managed, installing walkways or boardwalks to help reduce damage to the edge vegetation when people access the lake for water or fishing.


  • Plant up with native species to increase biodiversity and resilience and provide more crops for people and more vegetation to help clean the water and feed the aquatic food chain.

  • Tree planting – the siltation is a major problem, addressing this at source i.e. planting trees upstream and address deforestation. Plant more trees amongst the urban areas and houses to improve air quality and drainage and as part of water/effluent treatment and possibly as swales on the hillsides to ensure water quality and supply for the lake longer term.

  • Nursery for plants - including species for local productive polycultures and trees – a good way to involve more people is to help establish local nursery and plant propagation together with planting activities with and for the local communities including the young people and schools.

  • Fish community – support the population(s) of fish in the lake by finding out what problems and solutions there may be – have any fish populations declined? If so why and what can be done?

  • Eco-village ‘status’ – explore what options there are for raising the profile of the whole village/town and lakeside life. Could current cultural activities that are kind to people and the lake be promoted and nurtured – and at the same time help to increase tourism – if eco-friendly?

  • Vision statement – what catchy phrase could the group have that is synonymous with the area and the community that will help capture the local imagination and rally support.

  • Licenses to boat/fish – could there be better monitoring of the harvests drawn from the lake? Could people have licences and quotas for fish and fishing and could some species be protected?

  • Protected zones – this is seen as an important key element of the process, if some of the lake could be protected from fishing, for example as a minimum during the spawning season. If some of the edge is protected from people and/or grazing animal access, then there will be a bench mark to help monitor the improvements as well as help to emphasise the impact when the edge is not protected.

  • Survey of local biodiversity including plants, animals, water quality – base line data as well as research historical records where possible, record all this information for government as well as local use and the help inform decision making.

  • Survey of human use of the lake – where are the main desire lines and what uses are humans putting the lake to? What abstraction is taking place and what pollution is generated? Has this changed with time? Who are the local communities? Include finding out who are the local business people in the area as well as international businesses and how can they help with the repair and regeneration?

  • Composting – devise better methods of waste management including composting of food wastes and grey water diverted to trees and crops.

  • Eco sewerage system for the population – design and install a WET system or other treatment system, to divert the sewerage and reduce its impact on the water quality in the lake.

  • Bioregional planning – Map the whole bioregion and explore the food growing, timber and resource supplies, wastes management and other ecosystem services to be more resilient.

  • Legislation, monitoring and standards – linked to the licenses and protected zones above… what are the current laws and how can these be better implemented to protect the lake and the communities straight away? What international status could help protect the area and the people? What new laws/standards/monitoring would help and how who would be able to develop these?

  • Education in school curriculum and Teacher Training – Involve local schools and groups in learning about the ecology and biodiversity and in protecting and regenerating it, help with the implementation of the activities, provide volunteers and help with publicity and involving the whole community.

  • Education of Government Officials – Involve the government officials in the research and the planning process, include educational and training activities suitable for the Government e.g. international exchanges where the government officials visit similar projects like anaerobic digesters in Europe/India etc. The Government to feel that their support can lever more community involvement and that they are brought on board from the beginning.

  • Volunteers – Involve local people in making decisions about what to improve in their areas/fields/experience, volunteers to help with wide range of community activities from drama, singing/writing songs, artworks, tree planting, composting, growing more foods, agroforestry.

  • Events – Celebrations and participation – what events could galvanise participation and support?

  • Water aeration – help to repair the water quality in the lake by direct intervention e.g. wind powered aeration.

  • Petition – may add strength to the proposals by involving everyone and can provide a reason for engaging with local people – a reason to speak to them to introduce the work and vision.

  • Film/Video - the scale of the problem and the solutions proposed could be captured as film footage – a resulting edited film could be educational in nature as well as help with international publicity, possibly help improve ‘eco’ and/or responsible tourism and generate/support a local feel good factor particularly if on event is organised and timed to be either a feature in the film or a show case for the film release.


Although not exhaustive the list of roles and responsibilities/opportunities outlined above may be considered as a helpful starting point to both inform the type of skills and experience helpful to have in any such ‘group of people’. It may also help to inform a vision/management plan as well as possibly direct the type of organisation that such a ‘group of people’ may form.

However, the analysis reveals something quite interesting as in effect all the elements suggested could be regarded as relevant to all the functions. 

Although we have specifically chosen ‘saving the lake’ as a topic, we hope that it is clear that the involvement of the community is key to the whole success of any progress towards saving the lake – in effect saving the community is the saving of the lake and vice versa.

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