Salesmen paddle from boat to boat,
selling everything you could want such as cold drinks, fruit, nuts,
fresh flowers, film, baked goods, papier-mache boxes, woolen shawls,
silk carpets, leather goods, money-changing services and on and on. The
gentle soothing motion of the boat, as it glides along the water of
these lakes, is unbelievably romantic.
Dal is a Himalayan urban lake, which is mainly used for tourism. Fishery
is of secondary importance. The lake comprises five basins and a myriad
of inter- connecting channels. It is one of the most beautiful lakes of
India and the second largest lake in the State of Jammu and Kashmir. The
lake is surrounded by mountains on its three sides. A large number of
gardens and orchards have been laid along the shores. Dal Lake is unique
in having hundreds of house boats which afford an opportunity to
tourists to reside on the lake in an atmosphere of peace and
tranquility. The boats are served by Shikaras which more or less
resemble the gondolas of Venice but are smaller in size and are
tastefully decorated. Besides the Moghul monuments the campus of the
University of Kashmir is also located along the shores of the lake.
Overlooking the lake are two hillocks which house the famous temples of
Shankaracharya and Hari Parbat. A perennial inflow channel enters the
lake from the north and supplies about 80% of the water. Towards the
southwest side an outflow channel drains the lake water into a tributary
of the River Jhelum. Parallel to this exit is a stone-lined canal which
connects the lake with the tributary. This channel is used for movement
of boats in and out of the lake and prevents inundation of floating
gardens during high floods.
The famous Moghul gardens around the lake have been laid during 16-17th
century and their number was about five hundred but now only a few of
these have survived. The origin of the lake has remained unresolved.
Some geologists believe that the Dal Lake is the remnant of a
Pleistocene oligotrophic lake which once covered the entire valley of
Kashmir. There are other geologists who believe Dal to be a flood plain
The lake water is being used for irrigation of vegetable fields
which have grown in number and extent during recent years. The present
maximum depth of the lake is 6 m (Nagin basin). Many aquatic plants
growing in the lake are used as food, fodder and compost.
The water quality of Dal Lake has deteriorated considerably in the last
two decades. Large peripheral areas have been reclaimed and converted
into floating gardens. With the increase in the tourist influx a large
number of residential buildings, restaurants and hotels have come up
along the lake front. The number of house boats has also been increasing
at an alarming rate. As a result of rapid and unplanned urbanization,
large quantities of raw sewage are discharged in the lake water, which
might pose health problems in the near future.
The main environmental issues are excessive weed growth, reduction in
water clarity, enrichment of waters and high microbial activity. A Dal
Development Project was formulated in 1978 and the State Government of
Jammu and Kashmir adopted it with some modifications. The main thrust of
the project is to improve the lake environment by using both physical
and biological approaches. The work is in progress.