Wular Lake of Jammu & Kashmir – History, Access, Topography, Geology, Hydrology, Flora, Wildlife and Restoration Plans

Wular Lake is a large freshwater lake in the Bandipore district in Jammu and Kashmir. The lake was declared a Ramsar site on March 23, 1990, because of its biological, hydrological, and socio-economic values. 

History of the Place 

During the ancient period, this lake is called Mahapadmasar. In 1444, Zain-ul-Abidin the Kashmiri Sultan constructed the artificial lake. The Kashmiri sultan also constructed a mosque and other buildings and gave the islet the name of Lanka.  

Wular Lake is said to be a remnant of Satisar Lake, a lake of ancient times and the premises of this lake was a famous sunset point. A traditional myth says that a king named Raja Sundrasen once lived in the lake area. Because of his criminal activities, the Euler lake swallowed him and his subjects.  

During the 1980s, the Central Government of India proposed to construct the Wular barrage into dam water inflow, but the project was shelved after the rise of militancy in the state. After that, it got the Ramsar tag. 

The lake basin was formed due to tectonic activity and is fed by the Jhelum River and stream Madhumati.  

Access to the Wetland

Wular Lake of Jammu and Kashmir is enclosed by hills and dense forest, accounting for 60% of the total fish production in the state. This lake is 40 kilometers m from Srinagar. 

The nearest airport in this place is Sheikh Ul Alam International Airport. The nearest railway station, on the other hand, is Srinagar Railway Station. 

Jammu and Kashmir State Road Transport Corporation (JKSRTC) and private buses are available for neighboring areas. They are the quickest and the cheapest means of transport in Srinagar. Most public transport is functional from 4 am to 8 pm.  

Topography of Area 

The maximum length of the Wular Lake is 16 kilometers, while its maximum width is 9.6 kilometers. The Wulkar Lake surface area is around 12 to 100 square miles. The maximum depth of the lake is 14 m (46 ft). The lake’s surface elevation is 1,580 m (5,180 ft). 

Geology of Area 

According to the geographical coordinate system, the place is located at 34°20′N 74°36′E. 

The lake sediments and source rock chemistry are comparable, implying a low to moderate weathering history of the source region, which is compatible with cold regions and steep slope areas. 

Unusual enrichment of Cr in the sediments compared to source rocks signifies a process of sediment-water interaction where Cr is removed from the water and preferentially adsorbed onto the clay fraction of sediments.  

Geologists believe that Kashmir Valley where the Wular Lake is located was earlier affected by earthquakes. 

Hydrology of the Land 

Wular Lake is one of the largest freshwater lakes in Asia. This lake is fed by the Jhelum River and a major tributary of the Indus basin. The lake’s average annual inflows or outflows are nearly 7 billion cubic meters. The size of this lake varies from 12 to 100 square miles (30 to 260 square kilometers), depending on the season. 

Flora Found 

Wular Lake is a significant fish habitat. The main species that can be found here are Common carp (Cyprinus carpio), Rosy barb (Barbus conchonius), Mosquitofish (Gambusia affinis), Nemacheilus species, Crossocheilus latius, Snowtrout species in the genera Schizopyge and Schizothorax. 

Wildlife Around 

The Wular Lake and its surroundings have extensive marshes, which are important natural wildlife. It maintains a rich population of birds.  

Terrestrial birds observed around the lake are Black-eared kite, Eurasian sparrowhawk, Short-toed eagle, Himalayan golden eagle, Himalayan monal, Chukar partridge, Koklass pheasant, Rock dove, Common cuckoo, Alpine swift, Indian roller, Himalayan Woodpecker, Hoopoe, Barn swallow, and Golden oriole. 

Islands in the Lake 

Zain Lank island was suited in the middle of the Wular lake in Bandipore District.  

The island was built by King Zain ul Abideen Budshah, 14th- century ruler of Kashmir. He made this island to safeguard the people from floods near the lake. Even if the water level in the Wular Lake increases, it can’t enter the island area. The fencing of the island was built with massive stones. 

Now the island is under State Government’s control.  

Economic Evaluation of the Lake’s Resources 

Based on a study by Wetland International, around 32,000 families, including 2,300 fisher households, live on Wular’s shores and are dependent on it for livelihood.  

In Dar’s village, 600 fisher families live off Wular’s resources. Hundreds of other local villagers are employed by cooperative societies that trade the fish catch.  

In collaboration with Kerala Tourism and J&K Tourism, the Government of India Tourism jointly launched boating, water sports, and water skiing in the area. 

Deterioration of the Lake Environment 

To revive the region’s flood basin, more than 2 million trees around Wulkar Lake were cut down.  

Conservation group wetlands International conducted a study in 200 revealed that Wulkar Lake is originally covered an area of almost 218 square kilometers, but the lake shanked to 158 sq kilometers in 1911 to 87 sq km in 2007 as it was used for agriculture and willow plantations.  

The Wulkar Lake water level drastically went down. This resulted in the deduction of fish stocks. Because of the heavy siltation in the lake, Wular lake is losing its erstwhile glory. 

Restoration Plans 

The Jammu & Kashmir government has charted out a program for the conservation of the lake.  

A Forest Conservator, Irfan Rasool, who looks after the lake restoration work being carried out by the state government’s Wular Conservation and Management Authority (WUCMA), said that the lake would soon be de-silted.  

There are plans to remove over two million willow trees from the lake to achieve hydrological and ecological balance. According to elderly fishermen such as Subhan Dar and a study by Wetland International, willow plantation in the lake through government-sponsored schemes in the 1970s has led to fragmentation of the wetland, rapid siltation, and deterioration in water quality.  

But, Shakil Romshoo of Kashmir University’s Earth Sciences department firmly instructs to stop the silt at the source if Kashmir’s wetlands have to be conserved. The act banned around this lake is hunting waterfowl, migratory birds, and weed infestation in the lake itself.