Naini lake – one of Nainital’s showpiece attractions situated right in the middle of the town in Uttarakhand, which is amongst one of the more popular tourist spots in the state, now has been transferred from the Public Works Department (PWD) to the irrigation department due to concerns being voiced over its maintenance and falling water levels. The Uttarakhand government on Monday announced the transfer of maintenance of the lake to irrigation department from PWD as the widespread concerns about degradation of the lake have emerged. The lake is surrounded by silt and debris and its level has fallen drastically over the past few years, as reported by the Indian Express. This degradation is being attributed to tourism and wanton construction.
A PWD official cited Thursday’s water level of the lake and said that Naini lake, whose maximum depth has been recorded at 27 feet, is now just 18.5 ft below normal. Mahendra Pal, a junior engineer with the PWD was quoted as saying that ahead of the monsoon, the lake has been dry for two years now. He added that in June 2016 too the water level had reduced to about 19 feet below.
The residents and tourists have also been raising the matter and complaining about the issue on various social media platforms from YouTube videos to Twitter and by running hashtags such as #SaveNainiLake.
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According to reports, with the building of houses and hotels that have come up in areas surrounding the lake along with projects of aeration of the lake, beautification of the town and building of cemented roads through the forests surrounding the lake, have reduced the catchment area. Also, the heavy tourist inflow has contributed to degradation. Adding to this, the state tourism secretary, R Meenakshi Sundaram, said that the department is working on decentralising tourism so that tourists don’t crowd the hill towns, including Nainital, especially during summers and weekends.
Although now, the irrigation department will work on restoration and maintenance of the lake once it takes over the new responsibility. The department will start the work on the basis of the surveys that are to be done by organisations like the Roorkee-based National Institute of Hydrology and the Geological Survey of India, said the chief engineer (Kumaon zone), D C Singh.