The nauseating smell and pack of dogs have pounced over the carcass with eagles hovering overhead at Anchar Soura. Unknown of fact that site was once a pristine water body; anybody can take the place for a “dumping site”. This is what has remained of Anchar lake which once spanned over an area of 19.4sq km, has now just got shrunken to 6.8 sq km.
Nazir Ahmad Taploo is an octogenarian carpet weaver. Taking a deep gushes from his hookah, he has aged all along with now “dead Anchar”. “There were times when tourists visited this lake in large numbers. But now no one comes here,” says Taploo while placing tobacco inside chelum of his hookah.
Anchar formed an important place in the hydrology of Srinagar. The lake is connected with the Dal Lake through a channel known by the name of Nallah Aamir Khan.
Taploo says that it is on record that visitors used to take a boat ride from Dal Lake to the Khushal Sar –another water body which is also on the verge of extinction. “They used to enjoy. Not only them. Even we used to go ecstatic, not now anymore,” says Taploo while taking hard gushes from his hookah.
“We used to see tourists come in house boats spending nights together here in during summers. The view presented a splendor,” says Taploo pointing with his right hand towards massive Mahadav mountain range that houses highest peak of Kashmir:Harmukh and serene Tungalball hill in Ganderbal district.
Environmentalists after assessing the deteriorated condition of the lake had declared it “dead” in 2010.
Presently, Anchar falls under the domain Srinagar Municipal Corporation which in itself Nazir says is “irony”. “Some restoration urban bodies department like UEED or LAWDA should be given the task. But handling it entirely to SMC means that government considers it a dust bin.”
With successive regimes falling to restore pristine water body-Anchar has just been reduced to a memory of past. The encroachments are going on at massive scale. Inside it marshlands have been created which Nazir says are made from its basin. And large swathes of English willow and kani kul (used for wicker work) are grown into the lake. “We are responsible for its ruination,” says Taploo taking a rest from his smoking.
In 2010 environmentalists had given reasons for lake’s death. They had said concrete chambers used for baking willow branches have been installed close to its shores. Not only this they had mentioned that the fecal matter directly flows into the lake. Besides this the jungle of willows have turned whole peripheral area of lake into a thick forest that prevents sunlight from touching the waters of Anchar proving detrimental for its flora and fauna.
Besides this two important developments Taploo says happened close to Anchar that has proven catastrophic for it. “It’s (Anchar’s) doom started the day SKIMS hospital was built along its shore in 1977. We never thought life savior for people would turn curse for Anchar”.
All the biomedical waste flows into Anchar. Though, officials at SKIMS hospital maintain that waste is treated before being discharged into the water body. “We have a full fledged STP,” says an official from SKIMS.
Certain steps like installation of two furnaces for burning solid waste were put up in 2008 but SKIMS insiders say that the measure proved inadequate owing to the huge stress on the hospital. “No doubt main problem for us is liquid waste,” says a SKIMS insider wishing not to be identified.
Taploo after taking some rest again lays his hands on the hookah and places hot embers on the chillum to take a gush. The sweat drops trickle down from his forehead. He wipes it with the button less sleeve of his kurta. “There are no more fishes and nadrus(stem of lotus) here in Anchar. Though you may find some but that is all toxic. All you find in the lake is now plastic bottles, polythene bags and other garbage. Even amputated human body parts and animal carcass and wastage from lavish marriage parties are directly thrown into the lake. It emanates unbearable stench,” says Taploo.
Another factor that Nazir says as“final nail in Anchar’s coiffin” was construction of Achan dumping site by government in late nineties. The black toxic water(leech) that is formed out of the decomposed waste at Anchan, Taploo says has also damaged the lake.
Tributary from Sindh river enters the Anchar from its northern side and brings a lot of siltation alongside. Due to lack of any opening in the lake, the massive siltation has resulted into dry patches of land inside the lake.
“There were even medicinal plants that used to grow inside lake. Those plants had cancer treating properties. But now this lake is so toxic that it gives back cancer,” says Nazir in a harsh tone while shifting his hands from hookah towards kettle. Barely two kilometers from lies Nallabal bridge at Nowhera-a place famous for dry cleaners particularly associated with world famous Pashmina shawls. The discharge of detergent on large scale on daily bases is also adding to the Ancahr’s agony.
Heat of Anchar’s apathy is also felt by people living adjacent to it. The lake was once a bread earning place for them. They used to sell its fishes, nadru and other varities that used to grow inside the lake. Known for producing Pharri (smoked fish) – a local delicacy exclusively found in Anchar, its fishermen are now switching to other jobs.
With seepage capacity of Anchar almost reduced to nil. It is also seen as a reason by environmentalists for flooding of Srinagar city in 2014-the first ever urban floods in entire world.
Recalling his yesteryears Taploo says during these summer times, he used to spend his day in lake-swimming, rowing a boat or just playing alongside his friends on the shore. But he no more can take this risk. Now yoy can itching from its waters. They have turned highly toxic.” Taploo now shifts between sips of nun chai and gushes from his hookah. “It(Anchar) is a dead body bound to emanate smell,” gnaws Taploo.