The largest freshwater lake in India is Wular Lake (also coined as Wullar). It is also one of the largest freshwater lakes in Asia. Wular Lake is located in Bandipora district of Jammu and Kashmir, India. Tectonic activity has formed the lake basin and it is fed by the Jhelum River. The extent of the lake is 100 square miles (30 to 260 square kilometres). Due to willow plantations in the neighbouring area, the maximum portion of the lake has been drained. The willow plantations expanded on the shores of the lake during the 1950s. Wular is regarded as one of the most beautiful natural heritage sites of India.
History of Wular Lake- the Largest Freshwater Lake in India
It is said that Kashmiri Sultan Zain-ul-Abdin had ordered the building of the artificial island of Zaina Lake in the midst of the lake in 1444.
Wular Lake is among the 37 Indian wetlands recognised as the Ramsar site. The lake also faced some environmental issues for the conversion of large portions of the lake’s catchment areas into agricultural land. Wular Lake is renowned for its various kinds of fish habitat. Few of the important species are common carp, rosy barb, mosquito fish, Nemacheilus species, Crossocheilus latius, etc. The main part of the diet of Kashmiri people is fish. Wular Lake is the source of livelihood of around 8000 fishermen.
Apart from that around hundreds of villagers are involved in cooperative societies that trade fish catch. Birds are another centre of attraction of Wular Lake. There are thousands of terrestrial birds that can be seen in the lake. Few of them are black-eared kite, Eurasian sparrowhawk, short-toed eagle, Himalayan golden eagle, Himalayan monal, chukar partridge, koklass pheasant, alpine swift etc.
Role in Tourism
Kashmir is one of the best tourist spots in India and warmly acclaimed not only by the Indian tourists but also by the International tourists. Wular Lake plays a crucial role in expanding the tourism industry in the valley. Recently Govt of India has introduced boating, water sports and water skiing in collaboration with Kerala Tourism and J&K Tourism. The award of the contract was given for the above activities in September 2011.
Wular Lake was included as a Wetland of National Importance under the Wetlands Programme of the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Govt of India in 1986 for its biological, hydrological and socio-economic values. The above inclusion was done for intensive conservation and management purposes. According to the Ramsar Convention, the lake area is used for garbage dumping.
To restore Wular Lake under the National Lake Conservation Programme, nearly two million trees need to be cut down. A Rs 4 billion-project has been planned for the restoration programme which will take around 5 to 10 years. The South Asian Voluntary Association of Environmentalists (SAVE) is partnering with the Government of India in the above project to preserve the ecology and nature around Wular Lake.
India is termed as the land of wonders and Wular Lake should be in the list of those wonders. It is not only the largest freshwater lake in India but also the habitat of several fish and birds. The natural beauty of Wular Lake makes it a centre of attraction in Kashmir valley.