A famous weekend gateway till recently,Surajkund lake has dried up. And it has been parched for five years now.
I have not seen any water in the lake since my posting here in 2005, says an official at the ticket counter at the entrance of the lake. The kund (pond) and the lake used to be hot picnic spots. However,the number of visitors have drastically fallen over the past few years; now it comprises mainly couples.
This fact pains old timers too. On reaching,we kept wondering if we were at the right place. It is painful not to see a drop of water in the lake, says Canadian citizens Suresh and Pushpa Patel.
Septuagenarian Rohtash Singh of village Pali near Bhatkal lake says: I have lived here all my life. The rain used to bring life to this place. However,over the years,both rains and ground water have vanished,making land unfit for cultivation. It is all because of the mining in the Aravallis.
Villages like Pali,Bankhari and Navada (on the Bhatkal catchment area),and Anangpur,Lakkarpur,Ankhir and Meola Maharajpur (on the Surajkund catchment area) have been adversely affected after the lakes dried up.
Conservator of forest R P Balwan also blames it on the mining: The rain water percolates through the cracks and creaks in these hills since these rocks are not porous. However,rampant mining and colonisation have either distorted or blocked the gravity flow of rain water. Also,it has changed the natural gradient of the hills,leading to the drying up of the lakes,and wells and tube wells on the agricultural land.
According to locals,the water level in the surrounding areas has receded from 150 to 300 feet.
Drying of these water bodies have also led to the extinction of precious flora and fauna from the area, Balwan says.
He adds that not only Surajkund and Bhatkal,even Damdam lake has dried up due to the construction of farm houses,which have changed the entire drainage pattern of the region.
Is there any way to restore these lakes?
You cannot fill lakes with tubewells, Balwan says,adding that the only way to bring life back to these lakes is by restoring the catchment area by removing man-made barriers so that rainwater can fill the lakes.