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Volunteers Remove Garbage from Kashmir's Dal Lake

While officials continue to brood over exhaustive plans for its survival, some tourists and locals are setting an example to preserve Kashmir's famed Dal Lake - fishing out tonnes of garbage that threatens to choke the lake.

A large number of people, including foreign and domestic tourists, houseboat owners and voluntary groups collected truckloads of polythene bags, empty soft drink bottles and other litter from the lake Monday.

The effort to clean the lake was prompted by two foreign tourists - Marc Stolltreiter, a German, and Birgit Lenger, an Austrian - who took boat rides on the lake to collect the floating garbage.

Monday was the third day of the voluntary effort to cleanse the lake.

Muhammad Azim Tuman, chairman of the houseboat owners association, blamed the local Lakes and Waterways Authority, the governmental body entrusted with the preservation and maintenance of all water bodies in the Kashmir Valley, for the present condition of the lake.

"When we see drains and garbage pouring into the lake we wonder where all the funds meant for the lake's preservation have gone."

"It is time the government ordered a probe into the utilisation of those funds," Tuman said.

The Dal Lake, situated in the middle of summer capital Srinagar, is presently facing a grave ecological disaster.

Most of the natural area of the lake has been reclaimed and converted into residential areas. Floating vegetable gardens have come up on the lake at many places from which fertilizers seep into the waters.

The scores of hotels situated on the banks of the lake also contribute towards the lake's degradation as the affluents discharged from them finally find their way into its waters.

Alarmed by the Dal Lake's degradation, the state high court has taken suo motu cognisance of its condition and takes periodic stock of the efforts made towards its preser vation. The lake has shrunk from its original 58 sq km to 11 sq km due to encroachments and dumping of wastes.


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