The increasing silt deposits in the Sukhna Lake have gradually led to a decrease in its area and water storage capacity over the years. In the last few years,not much of water has entered the lake through the catchment area,which is supposed to be a vital channel for water.
Between 1958 and 1962,nearly 20 per cent of the lake was silted due to erosion from the catchment area. A part of the catchment area was acquired by the Administration to ensure solution to the problem which was followed by the construction of check dams to prevent silting. Besides filtering silt,this also blocked the passage of water entering the lake.
The lake has lost nearly 66 per cent area and water holding capacity. Silt deposits have increased at the bottom of the lake. It was only in 2008 that the water level of the lake rose by a few metres following the heavy rains in the season. It was after three years that the radial gates were opened to let the water out. Prior to this,the water level had reached levels that the authorities found it difficult to even allow boating to continue.
H S Johal,president of the Environment Society of Punjab,believes that the catchment area needs to be designed and landscaped on a massive scale. “There needs to be plantation in the area. This would solve the problem of silt entering the water and would also help in preserving the ecology. The catchment area can also be developed into a national park. The lake is dying a slow death and needs to be protected,” he says.
Former chief engineer,Punjab Irrigation Department,Dr G S Dhillon suggests that sedimentation tanks be built in places where water enters the lake. This,he believes,will help filter the silt before water is released into the lake.
He further says,”There needs to be a public debate on the lake. While a silt management committee had been constituted nearly three years ago,no meeting has been held. The Administration needs to pay more attention towards the lake.”
The Administration recently received a grant of Rs 2.73 crore from the Centre for the beautification of the lake. The immediate need,however,appears to be saving the lake from drying up.