BANDIPORA: Amidst a festive atmosphere, a significant number of locals are extracting chestnuts from the Wular Lake in North Kashmir’s Bandipora district, while the ongoing dredging project holds the promise of revitalizing its lost glory and boosting chestnut production.
Interviews with local residents living around the Lake, who revealed that presently, it is wearing a festive appearance as a considerable number of boatmen engage in harvesting chestnuts from its waters stated, “These boatmen commence their day early, navigating their boats onto the lake and returning by evening, laden with chestnuts,” they said.
Also, some instances involve volunteers from neighboring villages forming groups, embarking on shared boats to explore the lake’s deeper sections, spending days collecting a bountiful harvest before returning.
Residents hailing from Zurimanz, Lankreshipora, Kunzpora, Kulhama, Guroora, Saderkoot, Baniyari, Laharwalpora, KaniBathi, Kunoosa, Ashtangoo, and Kemma, located on the periphery of Bandipora, possess licenses to gather chestnuts from the lake.
Mohammad Afzal, a resident fisherman from Kulhama village, recounted that a few years prior, the local community had abandoned their fishing pursuits due to their lack of profitability. “The lake’s contamination deterred people from engaging in this trade, making it unsuitable for reliance,” he explained.
Afzal further said that a sense of hopelessness prevailed as the Wular’s revival seemed implausible. Nevertheless, within a short span, the government’s restoration efforts have remarkably transformed the lake’s circumstances, he added.
Likewise, in Kulhama, Abdul Aziz, another seasoned fisherman, expressed that his family’s livelihood has been intertwined with the lake for generations. Yet, the lake’s pollution raised grave concerns about the prospects for future generations, leaving everyone pondering the fate of their trade. He continued, “the government asserts substantial restoration efforts, and I fervently hope to witness the lake’s renaissance to its state from two decades ago.”
Abdul Hameed, echoing the sentiment of the locals, said that a growing number of people from Zurimanz to Suderkoot are presently participating in chestnut extraction, with optimistic expectations for a fruitful harvest.
He said that the ongoing dredging project in Wular is anticipated to enhance the lake’s conditions for increased production. He went on to stress that the government should intensify its conservation efforts for the lake, which could bring about a substantial economic boost.
“Our sustenance was intricately intertwined with the chestnut harvest, and its downturn had a profound impact on us. The abundant yields have not just provided economic respite but have also revitalized our pride in our homeland,” said another local, Asif Ahmad.
As per officials from the Wular Conservation and Management Authority, approximately 90 percent of Kashmir’s water chestnut yield originates from the Wular Lake. Local residents assert that a significant portion, around 80 percent, of the population engages in chestnut extraction from Wular as a means of livelihood.
An official expressed his enthusiasm about the renaissance of chestnut production within the lake.
He highlighted that the restoration initiatives have fostered a favorable environment for the resurgence of native species, particularly chestnut plants.
He said that the pivotal role played by the Wular Conservation and Management Authority in leading these restoration endeavors, underlining their vision to restore the lake’s former magnificence. The renewed chestnut production further fuels their commitment to safeguarding this invaluable ecosystem, he added— (KNO)