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Dal Lake

Dal Lake is a lake in Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir. The urban lake, which is the second largest in the state, is integral to tourism and recreation in Kashmir and is nicknamed the "Jewel in the crown of Kashmir"[1] or "Srinagar's Jewel".[2] The lake is also an important source for commercial operations in fishing and water plant harvesting.[3][4][5]

The shore line of the lake, about , is encompassed by a boulevard lined with Mughal era gardens, parks, houseboats and hotels. Scenic views of the lake can be witnessed from the shore line Mughal gardens, such as Shalimar Bagh and Nishat Bagh built during the reign of Mughal Emperor Jahangir) and from houseboats cruising along the lake in the colourful shikaras.[6] During the winter season, the temperature sometimes reaches , freezing the lake.[5][7]

The lake covers an area of and is part of a natural wetland which covers , including its floating gardens. The floating gardens, known as "Rad" in Kashmiri, blossom with lotus flowers during July and August. The wetland is divided by causeways into four basins; Gagribal, Lokut Dal, Bod Dal and Nagin (although Nagin is also considered as an independent lake). Lokut-dal and Bod-dal each have an island in the centre, known as Rup Lank (or Char Chinari) and Sona Lank respectively.[7][8]

At present, the Dal Lake and its Mughal gardens, Shalimar Bagh and the Nishat Bagh on its periphery are undergoing intensive restoration measures to fully address the serious eutrophication problems experienced by the lake. Massive investments of around US $275 million (Rs 1100 crores) is being made by the Government of India to restore the lake to its original splendour.[5][7][8][9][10]



Dal Lake Srinagar

Dal lake is mentioned as Mahasarit (Sanskrti- ) in ancient Sanskrit texts. Ancient history records mention that a village named Isabar to the east of Dal Lake was the residence of goddess Durga.[11] This place was known as Sureshwari on the bank of the lake, which was sourced by a spring called the Satadhara.[11]

During the Mughal period, the Mughal rulers of India designated Kashmir, Srinagar in particular, as their summer resort.[2][12] They developed the precincts of the Dal lake in Srinagar with sprawling Mughal-type gardens and pavilions as pleasure resorts to enjoy the salubrious cool climate.[2] After the death of Aurangzeb in 1707, which led to the disintegration of the Mughal Empire,[13] Pashtun tribes in the area around the lake and city increased, and the Durrani Empire ruled the city for several decades.[14] In 1814 a significant part of the Kashmir valley, including Srinagar, was annexed by Raja Ranjit Singh to his kingdom, and the Sikhs grew in influence in the region for 27 years.[15][16] Nishat Bagh Mughal Gardens During the British Raj, the British also made Srinagar their capital during the summer months, attracted by the cool climate of the Kashmir valley, amidst the back drop of the majestic snow covered Himalayan ranges. The lake precincts experience temperatures in the range of during winter and during the summer season. The lake freezes when temperatures drop to about during severe winter.[5] Although the Dogra Maharaja of Kashmir restricted the building of houses in the valley, the British circumvented this rule by commissioning lavish houseboats to be built on the Dal Lake. The houseboats have been referred to as, "each one a little piece of England afloat on Dal Lake."[2]

After the independence of India, the Kashmiri Hanji people have built, owned and maintained these houseboats, cultivating floating gardens and producing commodities for the market, making them the centre of their livelihoods. The houseboats, closely associated with Dal Lake also provide accommodation in Srinagar. Following the Mughal and British rule, the place has became a haven for tourists and earned the epithet, "Jewel in the tourist crown".[17][18][19]

Physical properties


A sunset view The lake is located within a catchment area covering in the Zabarwan mountain valley, in the foothills of the Himalayan range, which surrounds it on three sides. The lake, which lies to the east and north of Srinagar city covers an area of , although including the floating gardens of lotus blooms, it is (an estimated figure of is also mentioned).[4][5][20] The main basin draining the lake is a complex of five interconnected basins with causeways; the Nehru Park basin, the Nishat basin, the Hazratbal basin, the Nagin basin and the Barari Nambad basin. Navigational channels provide the transportation links to all the five basins.[4][5][20]

The average elevation of the lake is . The depth of water varies from at its deepest in Nagin lake to , the shallowest at Gagribal. The depth ratio between the maximum and minimum depths varies with the season between 0.29 and 0.25, which is interpreted as flat bed slope.[4][5][21] The length of the lake is with a width of .[4][5][21] The lake has a shore length of and roads run all along the periphery. Irreversible changes through urban expansion and road building have been made along the shore line to accommodate for dramatic tourist growth. Two islands built in the basin have placed further restrictions on the flow of the lake and as a result, marshy lands have emerged on the peripheral zones, notably in the foothill areas of the Shankaracharya and Zaharbwan hills. These marshy lands have since been reclaimed and converted into large residential complexes.


Two theories for the formation of the lake have been formulated. One version is that it is the remnants of a post-glacial lake, which has undergone drastic changes in size over the years and the other theory is that it is of fluvial origin from an old flood spill channel or ox-bows of the Jhelum River.[6][21] The dendritic drainage pattern of the catchment signifies that its rock strata have low levels of porosity. Lithologically, a variety of rock types have been discerned namely, igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary. The Dachigam Telbal Nallah system is conjectured to follow two major lineaments. Discontinuous surfaces seen in the terrain are attributed to the angular and parallel drainage pattern. The water table cuts the hill slopes, which is evidenced by the occurrence of numerous springs in the valley. Seismic activity in the valley is recorded under Zone V of the Seismic Zoning Map of India, the most severe zone where frequent damaging earthquakes of intensity IX could be expected. In the year 2005, Kashmir valley experienced one of the severe earthquakes measured at 7.6 on the Richter's scale, which resulted in deaths and the destruction of many properties, leaving many homeless.[10][22]


Dal Lake 39.jpg|thumb The shallow, open-drainage lake is fed by Dachigam-Telbal Nallah (with perennial flow), Dara Nallah ('Nallah' means "stream") and many other small streams. The lake is classified as 'warm monomictic' under the sub-tropical lake category. Spring sources also contribute to the flow, although no specific data is available to quantify their contribution. To address this, water balance studies to analyse and assess the characteristics of flow have been conducted in order to approximate the discharge contributed by the springs in the lake bed. The complex land use pattern of the valley is reflected in the urbanised Srinagar in its north, with rice fields, orchards and gardens in the lower slopes, and barren hills beyond steep sloping hills. The flat topography also has an impact on drainage conditions. It receives an average annual rainfall of in the catchment, but during the summer, snow melt from the higher ranges of the catchment results in large inflows into the lake.[4][5][23] The maximum flood discharge of Telbal Nallah has been assessed as 141.5 metres3/s for a one in hundred return period; the 1973 observed flood in Telbal Nallah has been estimated as 113 metres3/s.[24] The average annual flow, according to discharge measurements, has been estimated as 291.9 million cubic metres, with Telbal Nalah accounting for 80% of the total and 20% contributed by other sources. There are two outlets from the lake, namely the Dalgate and Amir Khan Nallah that connects the lakes of Nagin and Anchar. Dalgate is controlled by a weir and lock system. The outflow from these two outlets has been estimated as 275.6 million cubic metres. Further, the silt load has been estimated at 80,000 tonnes per year with 70% contribution from the Telabal nallah, with 36,000 tonnes recorded as settling in the lake.[23]

Flora and fauna

The ecosystem of Dal Lake is ecologically rich in macrophytes, submerged macrophytes, floating macrophytes and phytoplankton.[4][25][26] Macrophyte flora recorded in the lake's aquatic and marshland environment consists of 117 species, belonging to 69 genera and 42 families.[27] The lake is noted in particular for its Nelumbo nucifera (lotus flowers) which bloom in July and August. The prolific growth of Ceratophyllum demersum in the eutrophic zones has been reported, with Myriophyllum spicatum and Potemogetton lucens cited as dominant species. Other macrophytes discerned in different zones of the lake include Typho angustata, Phragmites australis, Myriophyllum, Sparganium evectum and Myriophyllum verticillatum, which contribute to the production of macrophites. The rooted variety of the floating leaf type consists of Neelambium nucifera, Nymphaea alba, N.Tertagonia, N.Candida, Nymphoides peltatum, Salvinia natans, Hydrocharis dubia, Nymphaea sp. and Potamogeton natans, all of which occupy 29.2% of the lake.[4][28] Phytoplanktons include Navicula radiosa, Nitzschia accicularis, Fragilaria crotonensis, Diatoma elongatum, Scenedesmus bijuga, Pediastrum duplex, Tetraedron minimum, Microcystis aeruginosa and Merismopedia elegans.

Since 1934, some important changes have been observed in the lake's biota, including a reduction in the number of Chara species, and an increase in the area covered by Salvinia since 1937. Analysis of the lake has also revealed the tendency for it to develop monospecific communities of submerged macrophytes such as Ceratophyllum and Myriophyllum. Woody vegetation in the catchment of the lake consists of Melia, Ailanthus, Robinia, Daphne, Celtis, Rose, Ephedra, Pinus roxburghii, Pinus halepensis, Pinus gerardiana, Cupressus torulosa and Cupressus arizonica. The valley also has a rich cultivation of crops such as paddy, wheat and fodder.[4]

Floating gardens, labelled the 'Rad' in tye Kashmiri language are a special feature of the lake. They basically constitute of matted vegetation and earth, but are floating. These are detached from the bottom of the lake and drawn to a suitable place (generally to the north west of the houseboats' location) and anchored. Given its rich nutrient properties, tomatoes, cucumbers and melons are grown with noteworthy results.[26]

The faunal distribution consists of Zooplanktons, Benthos and Fish.[4] Zooplankton found in the lake include Keratella cochlearis, K. serrulata, Polyactis vulgaris, Brachionus plicatilis, Monostyla bulla, Alona monocantha, Cyclops ladakanus and Mesocyclops leukarti. Benthos include Chironomus sp. and Tubifex sp. and fish include Cyprinus carpio specularis (economically important), C. carpio communis, Schizothorax niger, S. esocinus, S. curviformis and Crossochelius latius. It is also reported that Cyprinus, introduced during early sixties, is dominant and that the indigenous species Schizothorax is showing a declining trend.[4]

Fishing resources

The fishing industry on Dal Lake is the second largest industry in the region and is central to many of the people's livelihoods who reside on the lake's periphery.[29] Dal lake's commercial fisheries are particularly reliant on carp fish species, which were introduced into the lake in 1957. As a result, carp constitutes 70% of all the fish caught in the lake while the schizothonax constitutes 20% and other species account for 10%. Fishermen use a locally manufactured cast net which comprises six parts with a diameter of 6 metres. It is operated from a wooden fishing boat made out of deodar, typically 20ftx4ft in size. The gradual decline in quality of the lake water through pollution has resulted in lower fish stocks and the extinction of endemic varieties of fish. The causes for such deterioration have been identified and remedial actions have been initiated.[30]

Environmental issues

The lake is warm monomictic (mixing type) and the pH value recorded has varied from a minimum of 7.2 to a maximum of 8.8 on the surface over a yearly period.[4] The Dissolved oxygen [mg l 1] value has varied from a minimum of 1.4 to a maximum of 12.3 on the surface within a year. The Recorded maximum nitrogen concentration (NH4-N [micro l 1] has been recorded as 1315 on the surface and 22 at the bottom of the lake.[4] Phosphorus concentration expressed in Total-P [micro l 1] has varied from a high of 577 to a low of 35 during the 12 months of the year.[4] The lake water temperature has varied from a minimum of in January to in June at the surface. Transparency, expressed as depth in metres, has varied from a maximum of in July to a minimum of in March, over the 12 months period.[4]

Studies of the water quality of the lake in 1983 84 indicate a decline in quality since the 1965 66 analysis.[4] Scientific research over the years also reveal that Telbal, Botkal, and sewage drains are responsible for a substantial influx of nitrogen and phosphorus into the lake. Quantitatively, fifteen drains and several other sources have released a total of 156.62 tonnes (56.36 tonnes by drains alone) of phosphorus, and 241.18 tonnes of inorganic nitrogen into the lake from a discharge of 11.701 million cubic metres /year.[31] Non-point sources, such as seepage and diffused runoff, also add to this pollution and have been recorded as further adding 4.5 tonnes of total phosphates and 18.14 tonnes of nitrogen (NO3 N and NH4 N) to the lake.[31] Based on the values mentioned above, it has been inferred that the water quality of the lake has deteriorated.

Panoramic view of the Dal Lake The major environmental problem facing the lake is eutrophication, which has required immediate remedial measures to combat it. Alarmingly, the size of the lake has shrunk from its original area of to the present area of , and there is a concerning rate of sediment deposition due to catchment area degradation.[4] The water quality has also deteriorated due to intense pollution caused by the untreated sewage and solid waste that is fed into the lake from the peripheral areas and from the settlements and houseboats. Besides, some experts like Dr. A.A. Kazmi (Associate Professor, IIT Roorkee and in charge of the Environmental Engineering Lab) believe that deforestation in the catchment of Dal Lake and Telbal stream may have led to more nitrogen and phosphorus-rich run-off, further aiding eutrophication. Encroachments of water channels and consequent clogging has diminished the circulation and inflows into the lake, so with the building up of phosphates and nitrogen, this has led to extensive weed growth and consequences on the biodiversity of the lake.[4][6]

Public Interest Litigations and restoration works

Identifying the above major issues as causes for the deterioration of the lake, a multidisciplinary team of experts have prepared a Detailed Project Report (DPR), a responsible management plan entitled "Conservation and Management of Dal Lake", which has the objective of achieving environment compatibility, cost effectiveness and sustainability, ecological improvement with minimum interventions and displacement and balancing the conflicts of interest. This plan is now under implementation with the financial assistance of the Government of India.[4][6]

The serious nature of the environmental problems the lake has been experienced has been widely publicised and has been brought to the attention of the Supreme Court of India. Public Interest Litigations (PILs) have been filed in court demonstrating the environmental dangers posed to the lake by sewage, wastes and effluents. The PILs have sought injunctions of the court for setting up of an integrated ring sewage system encircling the Lake; release of funds by the Government of India to undertake measures to check pollution and to inaugurate a High Powered Committee to monitor proper utilisation of the allotted funds. The committee is under obligation to post feedback of progression developments from time to time, directly to the Supreme Court. The PIL, filed in 2001, has resulted in a number of directives from the court to the funding and implementing agencies and the case is continuing. Consequently, under the National Lake Conservation Plan of the Ministry of Environment and Forests of the Government of India, funds to the extent Rs 298.76 crore were sanctioned in September 2005 for the conservation of the lake.[9] The restoration and rehabilitation measures envisaged under the "Conservation and Management of Dal Lake" are under various stages of implementation with the funds allocated by the Government of India for the purpose. Some of the measures undertaken for rehabilitating the lake to bring it to its original eutrophication free status involved measures such as construction of siltation tanks, mechanical deweeding, regrouping of houseboats, deepening of outflow channel and removal of bunds and barricades, including some floating gardens.[4] In addition, a moratorium has been imposed on new construction works close to the lakefront, including the building of new house boats. Resettlement plans for migrating the population from the lakefront have also evolved.[4] The long-term development plans also deal with the reafforestation of catchment area to reduce erosion movement and movement of silt and to regulate grazing by livestock. Recent reports indicate that, as of 2010, 40% of the measures have been implemented.[8]

Dal Lake is a busy commercial spot

Uses and attractions

The lake is popular as a visitor attraction and a summer resort. Fisheries and the harvesting of food and fodder plants are also important on Dal Lake.[4] Weeds from the lake are extracted and converted into compost for the gardens. It also serves as a flood lung of the Jhelum River.[26] Swimming, boating, snow skiing (particularly when the lake is frozen during the severe winter), and canoeing are amongst some of the water sports activities practised on the lake.

The lake has numerous sites and places of interest, many of which are important to the cultural heritage of Srinigar. Aside from the Shalimar Bagh and Nishat Bagh, some of the other places frequented by tourists are the Shankaracharya temple, the Hari Parbat, the Nagin Lake, the Chashme Shahi, the Hazratbal Shrine, the famous Kashmir houseboat and the shikara (boat) called the Gandola of Kashmir.

Island of Char Chinar

A famous landmark in Srinagar is an island on Dal Lake where four Chinar (Platanus orientalis) trees stand, named "Char Chinar". Char in Hindi and Urdu means four.

Nagin Lake

Nagin Lake, though sometimes referred to as a separate lake, is actually part of Dal Lake, being linked through a causeway which permits only bikers and walkers to enter the lake precincts. The caseway carries the water supply pipeline to the Srinagar city in the east. The lake is bounded by the Shankaracharya hill (Takht-e-Suleiman) on the south and Hari Parbat on the west and is located at the foot of the Zabarwan hills. Willow and poplar trees flank the edges of the lake.[26][32]

Chashme Shahi

Cheshme Shahi Garden Srinagr

Chashme Shahi, meaning "Royal Spring", is a fresh water spring and garden known for its medicinal properties. Its source located above the Nehru Memorial Park. It is the smallest of all the Mughal gardens in Srinagar, measuring x and it has three terraces, an aqueduct, waterfalls and fountains.[32] Ali Mardan Khan built the garden in 1632, and is built in a such a way that the spring water is the source of fountains. From the fountains, water flows along the floor of the pavilion and cascades to a lower terrace over a drop of along a polished black stone chute. A small shrine, known as the Chasma Sahibi, is located in the vicinity of the gardens and has a fresh water spring.[32]

Shankaracharya Temple

The sacred Shankaracharya temple, also known as Jyeshteswara, occupies the top of the hills (about above the surrounding Takht-I-Sulaiman plains in the south-east of Srinagar. The site, initially named Gopadri, dates back to 250 BC as a Buddhist monument, probably built by Emperor Ashoka's son Jhaloka. In the 7th century it was replaced by the present temple by King Lalitaditya. The philosopher Shankaracharya is documented as having stayed at this place when he visited Kashmir ten centuries ago to revive San tana Dharma.[32][33]

Built on a high octagonal plinth ( high) on solid rock and approached by a flight of steps with side walls that once bore inscriptions, the main surviving shrine consists of square building with a circular cell. It overlooks the Srinagar valley and can be approached by car. A modern ceiling covers the inner sanctum and a Persian inscription traces its origin to the reign of Emperor Shah Jahan. There is also a Shiva Linga coiled by a serpent, located in a basin inside the sanctum. The original ceiling was dome-shaped and the current brick roof is said to be about a century old.[32][33]

Hari Parbat

Hari Parbat, also known as the Mughal fort, is a hill fort on Sharika hill that provides panoramic views of the Srinagar city and the Dal Lake. It was first established by Mughal Emperor Akbar in 1590. However, he only erected the outer wall of the fort and his plans to build a new capital called Naga Nagor within it did not materialise. The fort in its current state was built much later in 1808 under the reign of Shuja Shah Durrani. Within the fort's precincts are temples, Muslim shrines, and a sikh Gurudwara. The hill is the subject of many legends in Hindu mythology, and was said to have once been a large sea, inhabited by a demon known as Jalobhava and that the hill grew from a pebble.[32][34]

Kashmir houseboat and shikara

Houseboats and the Dal Lake are widely associated with Srinigar and are nicknamed "floating palaces", built according to British customs. The houseboats are generally made from local cedar-wood and measure in length and in width and are graded in a similar fashion to hotels according to level of comfort.[35] Many of them have lavishly furnished rooms, with verandas and a terrace to serve as a sun-deck or to serve evening cocktails. They are mainly moored along the western periphery of the lake, close to the lakeside boulevard in the vicinity of the Dal gate and on small islands in the lake. They are anchored individually, with interconnecting bridges providing access from one boat to the other. The kitchen-boat is annexed to the main houseboat, which also serves as residence of the boatkeeper and his family.

Each houseboat has an exclusive shikara for ferrying guests to the shore.[36] A shikara is small paddled taxi boat, often about long) and made of wood with a canopy and a spade shaped bottom. It is the cultural symbol of Kashmir and is used not only for ferrying visitors but is also used for the vending of fruits, vegetables and flowers and for the fishing and harvesting of aquatic vegetation.[36] All gardens in the lake periphery and houseboats anchored in the lake are approachable through shikaras. The boats are often navigated by two boatmen dressed in "Phiron" (traditional dress) and carry 'Kangris' or portable heaters on the boat. A shikara can seat about six people and have heavily cushioned seats and backrests to provide comfort in Mughul style. All houseboat owners provide shikara transport to their house guests free of charge. The shikara is also used to provide for other sightseeing locations in the valley, notably a cruise along the Jhelum River, offering scenic views of the Pir Panjal mountains and passing through the famous seven bridges and the backwaters enroute.[35][37]

Hazratbal Shrine

Hazratbal shrine. The Hazratbal Shrine , literally: Majestic Place), also named Hazratbal, Assar-e-Sharief, Madinat-us-Sani, or simply Dargah Sharif,[38] is a Muslim shrine situated on the left bank of the Dal Lake and is considered to be Kashmir's holiest Muslim shrine.[39] It contains a relic believed by many Kashmiri Muslims to be the Moi-e-Muqqadas, a hair from the head of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. According to legend, the relic was first brought to India by Syed Abdullah, a descendant of Muhammad who left Medina and settled in Bijapur, near Hyderabad in 1635. When Syed Abdullah died, his son, Syed Hamid, inherited the relic. Following the Mughal conquest of the region, Syed Hamid was stripped of his family estates. Finding himself unable to care for the relic, he gave it as the most precious gift to his close Mureed and a wealthy Kashmiri businessman, Khwaja Nur-ud-Din Ishbari.

Transport connections

Dal Lake lies in heart of the Srinagar city and is well connected by road and air links. The nearest airport, which connects with other major cities in the country, is about away at Badgam. The nearest railway station is away at Jammu. The National Highway NH1A connects the Kashmir valley with rest of the country. Shikaras provide a water taxi service available to see the sights in the Dal Lake and to approach the houseboats moored on the lake periphery.[40]

See also

  • Dal in Himachal
  • Nishat Bagh
  • Gangabal Lake
  • Gadsar Lake
  • Manasbal Lake
  • Shalimar Bagh (Srinagar)
  • Wular Lake




External links

ca:Dal de:Dal-See fa: gu: ko: hi: it:Lago Dal he: ml: ms:Tasik Dal pnb: pl:Dal (Indie) ru: ( ) simple:Dal Lake ta: te: ur:

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