Thursday, 10 November 2022 | PNS | DEHRADUN
The concretization of Sukhatal has the potential to collapse the ecology of the Naini lake
Local activists and a group of citizens have expressed their concern about the unscientific development of Sukhatal Lake in Nainital district. They said that the proposed development of Sukhatal Lake that includes its preservation and concretization has the potential to collapse the ecology of the Naini lake and to endanger the livelihood of all the citizens of Nainital. Talking about the plight of the Sukhatal Lake, the activists said that Sukhatal is the feeder lake for Naini lake that acts as an upstream storage for it during the monsoon by holding the run-off from the catchment of water that would have otherwise caused increased soil erosion and silt deposition in the Naini lake. Studies conducted by several institutes including National Institute of Hydrology (NIH) in Roorkee, the Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee (IIT-R), and the Centre for Ecology Development and Research (CEDAR), Dehradun have indicated that Sukhatal Lake contributes significantly to inflow of water to Naini Lake.
Experts who have studied the area also recommend restoring and protecting the lake to perform its ecological functions. Sukhatal qualifies as a wetland as per the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change and should be protected accordingly, added locals. They said that the proposal to make an artificial water body on the Sukhatal lake bed is largely driven to boost tourism without any actual study on the carrying capacity of the region. They said that the so-called development by making the lakebed impermeable will impair replenishment of Naini Lake and the underground aquifer that provide 18 to 20 million litres of drinking water per day which annually equivalent to the total volume of the Naini lake. The water level of Naini lake will continue to decline without this replenishment which will ultimately lead to the devastation of Nainital. According to them, encroachment and dumping of construction and other waste material have already resulted in unprecedented deterioration of Sukhatal lake bed and its ability to recharge the Naini lake. In the year 2020, the HC ordered the authorities to remove 44 encroachments from the lake but no action has been taken till now, as per the locals. In March this year, the Uttarakhand High Court took suo moto cognisance of a letter which was signed by 104 concerned citizens of Nainital in December 2021 regarding the planned development of Sukhatal Lake. The activists also presented their concerns through the letter backed by science and expert findings. The activists said that the court treated and listed the letter as the PIL in March but no hearings have been held in the past eight months. Like many urgent matters critical to ecology and prevention of disasters, this PIL has also gone into a black hole while the citizens of Nainital are largely oblivious of a disaster waiting to happen, said the activists. According to them, it is a critical time to take the right decision on the matter by the authorities concerned or it would cause a huge disaster and great human tragedy in future.