TBI BLOGS: How 200 Plus Kashmiris Joined Hands to Clean Dal Lake in This Amazing Community Effort

Goonj is channelizing underutilized material of cities to rural India to address some ignored basic needs and as a resource for large scale rural development work, with dignity to the receiver.

Any story about the Kashmir valley is incomplete without the mention of Dal Lake, God’s own artwork. Read how 200 plus villagers came together to clean up and save this waterbody from dying. 

As India tries to put in place tougher measures to combat rising pollution, this story is heart warming for the hope it brings in the face of imminent danger to nature’s gifts.

Residents of Moti Mahalla village around Dal Lake in Srinagar, collaborated with Goonj to clean up this waterbody…their lifeline.During1

Dal is the soul of Kashmir, known worldwide for its serene beauty. But what’s not so well known is that the lake is getting choked by an increasing web of weeds (Azolla, algae, lilypads, other wild weeds, garbage, etc.). This is causing problems for the people for whom the lake is home.

According to Dr. Abdul Majid Kak, an eminent scientist studying Dal Lake, “The thick mats of Azolla block sunlight to the lake’s flora and fauna and ultimately cause their decay. Azolla is hampering Dal’s water circulation, which is a must, for it carries away the lake’s nutrients and prevents growth of harmful water ferns.”

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In the meantime, Goonj has been working closely on reaching relief material to the people of Moti Mohalla village (Asthawol area of the Dal Lake), right from the time the floods took over the Dal Lake and spilt over to the entire Boulevard road and surrounding areas in September 2014. A year later, when the NGO introduced its Cloth for Work (CFW) initiative to this village, it asked them what bothered them the most. What would they like to work on? The answer was unanimous – “Clean the Dal, let it breathe!”

Under the Cloth for Work initiative by Goonj, rural communities come together to work on their local issues. They use their local resources and wisdom to tackle the problems, hence taking ownership from there on. Goonj provides comprehensive kits of clothing and other household articles to those villagers who participate in the efforts.
As the residents of the Moti Mohalla village gathered to work on cleaning Dal, they tackled the work in two phases.

They brought their boats and paddles and other extracting sticks and extracted the waste manually.during3

In the first round, 145 people carried out the cleaning work. Seventy boats were used for uprooting weeds. Braving dense fog and winter chill, these people worked for two days.

One month later, in the second phase, 167 participants cleaned a part of Dal, using 78 boats over a span of two days.

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More than 500 boatloads of weed and other waste were extracted in both the phases put together.

The topmost benefit was that the villagers cleaned this part of the lake manually, uprooting the weeds instead of chopping them from the surface, which does no good to the ecology of Dal.

True to the dictum that in nature nothing is a waste, some of the extracted weeds became fodder for the cattle and the rest would decay and form manure.

Cleaner water in the lake means less water borne diseases for the people who live around it, apart from enhanced mobility and endless ecological benefits.

Over 1 lakh sq. meter area of Dal was covered and cleaned in these two exercises.

And the added benefit of course was the material the villagers got under the ‘Cloth for Work’ initiative — something they needed the most to fight the chilling temperatures in the Kashmir valley.     DSCN0053

“If we continue to organize such events, the old beauty of Dal Lake will be restored and the polluted Dal will become free from different polluted materials,” said Ghulam Ahmad, another local resident who participated in the cleaning of the lake.

Jawan Akbaria Trust was Goonj’s local partner organization in this effort to clean Dal Lake.

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