Save Sukhatal, Nainital Lake's Lifeline
Save Sukhatal, Nainital Lake's Lifeline
Nainital lake's lifeline is under threat as authorities plan to choke the lake's most important recharge zone – Sukhatal. ACT NOW!
Sukhatal, a seasonal lake situated about 800 metres from the Nainital lake, is arguably the most important recharge zone in the entire Himalaya. It is responsible for 50% of the total underground inflow to the Nainital lake, and 2 million litres of water per day (MLD) is extracted from the aquifer beneath it to serve the town. However, despite being scientifically proven as Nainital lake's main water recharge zone by premier government research institutions such as National Institute of Hydrology (NIH), Roorkee, IIT, Roorkee, Kumaun University, Nainital, and Centre for Ecology, Development and Research (CEDAR), Dehradun, Sukhatal has been subject to rampant encroachment. As a result, a large part of the Sukhatal lakebed has been occupied by illegally constructed buildings and has been made into a debris dumping ground by the builders. To keep the lakebed dry so the buildings on the lakebed are not impacted, the drains flowing into Sukhatal from its 0.74 sq km catchment area have been diverted, depriving Sukhatal of the rainwater which should ideally remain stored in Sukhatal during the monsoon season. Considering its essential hydrogeological services, groundwater recharge, and for being a 'zone of influence' for Nainital lake, Sukhatal must be notified as a wetland. However, instead of bringing Sukhatal back to its natural state, the authorities are planning to choke the lakebed to develop Sukhatal into a tourist spot.
Based on the Detailed Project Report (DPR) submitted by IIT, Roorkee, the Nainital District Level Development Authority (DDA) and the tourism authority Kumaon Mandal Vikas Nigam (KMVN) are proceeding with a Rs 29.16 crore project for Sukhatal, which is currently under construction and is expected to be completed by March 2022. The project includes construction on 10,000 sq m of Sukhatal lakebed, so it can be made into a pond (more like a swimming pool) to look at and enjoy a boat ride in. Doesn’t the 4,90,000 sq m Nainital lake already serve the purpose, as concerned citizens we wonder.
If Sukhatal lakebed is choked due to the construction:
1. The most important natural function of Sukhatal, which is to recharge Nainital lake, will be completely sabotaged. This, in turn, will adversely impact the Nainital lake – a mistake that will be difficult to rectify.
2. The underground aquifer which provides drinking water to the town will gradually deplete and will eventually disappear, creating water scarcity in the town.
3. A 2013 Kedarnath-type disaster may occur. This is because the 'Nainital fault', which bisects the Nainital lake into two halves, runs parallel to Sukhatal. Creating a reservoir that stores a huge quantity of water near the fault will be a monumental mistake as any tectonic activity may destroy the reservoir, and might therefore result in a disaster.
Hence, we request all you Nainital lovers, lovers of water bodies and the Himalaya at large, to join us in requesting the Honourable Prime Minister of India, to:
1. Direct the state and local administration to IMMEDIATELY STOP WORK on the Sukhatal tourism project.
2. Direct the concerned authorities to revive the Sukhatal lake through Nature-Based Solutions (NBS).
3. The Uttarakhand forest department and the WWF classify Sukhatal as a 'wetland'. In accordance with that, notify Sukhatal as a wetland and rejuvenate it naturally.
4. Make optimum use of the Ministry of Jal Shakti's 'Catch the Rain' campaign (launched by the Prime Minister), and redevelop Sukhatal as a Natural Rain Water Harvesting (RWH) system for Nainital.
5. Direct the authorities to immediately redirect the drains flowing into Sukhatal, so that Sukhatal can play its natural role of receiving water from the catchment, retaining water, acting as a buffer zone during the monsoon season, and slowly releasing water through subsurface flows to maintain the level of the Nainital lake during dry season, and recharging the underground aquifer.
With its critical water recharge zones destroyed, a dried-up Nainital lake will not only mean the end of Nainital's aesthetic appeal, it will also mean no water in our taps. Additionally, we must remember that with climate change being a pertinent problem, threat already looms large over Himalayan towns' water security. However, there is still hope, but only if we ACT NOW. All you concerned people are important drivers of change, hence we request you to SIGN THIS PETITION AND SHARE WIDELY.
TO KNOW MORE ABOUT THE ISSUE, PLEASE SEE:
1) While the Nainital administration denies Sukhatal being a wetland, here's a forest department and WWF report specifying that Sukhatal is a wetland (in the report, see Shukha Tal): https://forest.uk.gov.in/uploads/downloads_details/1616414014.pdf
2) Video Report on Sukhatal tourism project in The Quint (English): https://www.thequint.com/my-report/videokumaon-mandal-vikas-nigam-plans-to-restore-sukhatal-lake-a-catchment-area-for-naini-lake
3) Report on Sukhatal tourism project in Carbon Copy (Hindi): https://hindi.carboncopy.info/main-water-source-of-naini-lake-sukhtal-is-in-danger/?fbclid=IwAR2GjiHMHdgp8LMplbbmD5RKJYTuAJBX1A_HiVMvb7yi3treUkqn-7BmBQw
4) News reports on Sukhatal's importance for Naini lake:
Down to Earth: https://www.downtoearth.org.in/coverage/india/revival-of-naini-lake-needs-prompt-action-but-ownership-not-clearly-defined-57979
Hindustan Times: https://www.hindustantimes.com/dehradun/in-giving-life-to-nainital-its-lifeline-is-dying/story-3d0rT41aFxUZ0wbCz2rI9K.html
Times of India: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/dehradun/revive-sukhatal-for-naini-lake-survival-suggest-experts/articleshow/58739314.cms