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Chandigarh’s landmark Sukhna Lake is no more the picturesque Water Body: Here is Why!

In just under six decades, the area under water of the scenic lake, which has the Kasauli Hills and lower Himalayas in the backdrop, has shrunk by nearly 57 per cent

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Sukhna Lake, Pixabay

– by Jaideep Sarin

Chandigarh, May 16, 2017: Large patches of dry bed, more than 50 percent of the water body showing its dirty and smelly underbelly of weeds, boating limited to a small area and marine and bird-life affected — Chandigarh’s landmark Sukhna Lake is no more the picturesque water body that used to attracts thousands of people every day.

In just under six decades, the area under water of the scenic lake, which has the Kasauli Hills and lower Himalayas in the backdrop, has shrunk by nearly 57 per cent.

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While going dry is not entirely a new phenomenon for the rivulet and rain-fed Sukhna Lake, this year is particularly bad as the lake started drying up quite early in the summer.

With monsoon rains over the region not likely to arrive for the next 45-50 days, Sukhna Lake could be headed for one of its worst dry periods.

With an average depth of eight feet and a maximum of 16 feet, Sukhna Lake is barely managing to stay afloat in some parts. The water depth in some areas, where boating is still being allowed in a restricted area, is just about 2-3 feet.

Built in 1958, the Sukhna Lake was spread over an area of three square km. In 2016, the area of the lake under water was reduced to a mere 1.3 square km.

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With rainfall over the region not being as high in recent years as earlier, the seasonal rivulets have not been able to maintain the supply of water to the lake. The construction of over 200 check dams in the Sukhna choe (rivulet) and other rivulets, which feed the lake from the catchment areas of neighbouring Haryana and Himachal Pradesh, in the past over four decades, has also meant that the lake gets lesser water from upstream.

“The check dams were constructed to stop silt from coming to the lake. But it stopped the water flow too,” Yogesh Kumar, a retired engineer, who has been coming to the lake since the 1970s, told IANS.

The lake complex, which attracts hundreds of visitors, tourists, regular morning and evening walkers, fitness freaks and even lovelorn couples, presents a picture of neglect as far as the water body is concerned.

“We had heard a lot about Chandigarh’s Sukhna Lake. But we are disappointed after coming here. The lake has very little water and looks ugly in some parts,” Suresh Das, a tourist from Kolkata, who stopped with his family while en route to Shimla, told IANS.

Last year, the water level of the lake was not even close to its maximum water storage capacity of 1,167 feet. Even at the end of the monsoon season, the water level stood at only 1,154 feet. It is down to about 1,151 feet now.

Such is the state of affairs that the Punjab and Haryana High Court had to intervene last year and direct the Chandigarh Administration to list immediate steps to save the lake.

Despite the administration, on the directions of the high court, spending up to Rs 15 lakh ($23,000) to pump water into the lake from five tubewells, the effort hardly helped in saving the lake from going dry.

The high court even appointed an amicus curiae to invite suggestions from experts, environmentalists and concerned citizens to save the lake.

Sukhna, the most popular tourist spot in the city along with the Rock Garden, was built in 1958 by making a three-kilometre-long dam on the Sukhna Choe. It was conceived as a place of relaxation, seclusion and sport by the city’s founder-architect, Le Corbusier.

The lake is situated in an upscale and VIP area of Chandigarh, with the governors of Haryana and Punjab, senior officers of the administration and some affluent people residing in its immediate vicinity.

The lake, which is a national wetland, has lost its water body area to silt and forest cover that has grown on this area.

The man-made lake has a capacity of only around 500 hectare metres against the original capacity of over 1,074 hectare metres in the late 1950s when it was built.

In the late 1980s, comedian Jaspal Bhatti and members of his “Nonsense Club” had played cricket on the dry bed of the lake to highlight the plight of the water body. They were chased away by the police.

Boating activity at the lake is very popular with over 100 paddle and rowing boats and some Shikaras’ (traditional boats like those in Srinagar’s famous Dal Lake) being booked by people daily for boating. (IANS)

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Climate Change Will Melt Vast Parts of Himalayas: Study

The Hindu Kush Himalayan Assessment was put together by more than 200 authors aiming to create a baseline of knowledge to understand the region

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The image was captured at lower Zuluk province. It is a small village in the Himalayas. There are a lot of rows in a row from the mountain. The amazing beauty of nature can be seen. Wikimedia

At least a third of the ice in the Hindu Kush Himalayan region could melt by the end of this century due to climate change, even if there is aggressive action to curb greenhouse gases and meet the goals of the Paris climate agreement,according to a new study.

The study issued on Monday night said that rising temperatures are a serious threat to the eight countries — India, China, Myanmar, Nepal, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan — in the Hindu Kush Himalayan region, CNN reported.

Fresh water from the region’s glaciers flows into 10 major river basins, contributing to the drinking water, irrigation and energy needs of approximately 1.9 billion people, or about a quarter of the world’s population.

“The consequences are pretty extreme. We are concerned, and we are worried,” said one of the study’s authors, Philippus Wester, chief scientist with the Kathmandu-based International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development.

“Urgent climate action is needed,” he said.

Aesculus indica, Horse Chestnut, Pithoragarh, Himalayas. Wikimedia

Glaciers have been retreating and thinning in the area since the 1970s but there has been an accelerating rate of retreat since then, the study said.

Climate change will also reduce how much food farmers will be able to produce in this part of the world. About 70 per cent of the population of this region are farmers, and there is already great food insecurity there, it added.

Also Read- Government Following China in Order to Eradicate Poverty, Says Pakistan PM Imran Khan

Warmer water temperatures will encourage the growth of invasive species. Extreme floods and droughts may “destroy the food production base of the region”, the study said, adding the rivers that farmers and energy companies rely on, like the Ganges, Yangtze, Mekong and Indus, will also be affected by glacier melt.

The Hindu Kush Himalayan Assessment was put together by more than 200 authors aiming to create a baseline of knowledge to understand the region. (IANS)