BANDIPORA: Wular Lake, the largest freshwater lake in Asia, has undergone a remarkable transformation over the past few years, emerging as a thriving tourist destination.
With concerted efforts to restore its natural beauty and preserve its ecosystem, Wular Lake in north Kashmir’s Bandipora district has now become a centre of attraction for nature enthusiasts and tourists from far and wide.
“Under a comprehensive conservation plan, significant strides have been made to address environmental challenges, including pollution and encroachment. The successful implementation of measures to protect the lake’s fragile ecosystem has resulted in a remarkable improvement in water quality and the revival of its flora and fauna,” an official said.
He said that the lake’s ecosystem has become a haven for numerous bird species, both resident and migratory. Birdwatchers and wildlife enthusiasts are flocking to the lake to witness the mesmerizing spectacle of flocks of colourful avian visitors.
He said that the rise of Wular Lake as a tourist destination has not only revived the local economy but also generated employment opportunities for the communities residing along its shores.
The new boardwalk constructed by Wular Conservation and Management Authority (WCMA) recently has become a major attraction for tourists.
“The Boardwalk offers an incredible view of Mount Harmukh, which stands tall above the Wular Lake. Along with enjoying the breathtaking scenery, visitors can also have fun with activities like boating, fishing, and bird watching. It’s a place where you can make beautiful memories,” said a group of locals.
“Despite the Wular having the most beautiful view in this area, the Bangladesh village had been neglected for years. However, recent developments by the administration have compelled tourists to visit this place. We have never witnessed such a gathering before. Many young people have set up tents to accommodate tourists,” Muhammad Yaqoob, a local said.
“We are hopeful that the administration will make further efforts to develop the area, transforming it into one of the prominent tourist destinations in the district,” Iftikhar Ahmad, another local said.
Apart from its mesmerizing natural beauty that attracts visitors, what distinguishes Wular Lake is the enchanting presence of Zainul Lank. This unique floating island, built by Zain-ul-Abideen (Budshah) in the 14th century, is a small piece of land that floats on the lake’s surface. Zainul Lank holds immense religious significance and is widely revered for its spiritual importance, adding to the allure of the lake.
According to another WCMA official, this place is currently experiencing an overwhelming surge of visitors, with a massive rush of people flocking to its serene shores.
Towseef Ahmad, a visitor from Sopore exclaimed, “I never expected such tranquillity and natural beauty in one place. It feels like a hidden paradise. Exploring Zainul Lank and experiencing the spiritual atmosphere here has been truly transformative. It’s a place that touches your soul”.
He also said that the revival of Wular Lake is a testament to the power of collective action and the importance of preserving our natural heritage. “It is heartening to see visitors across the country appreciating the lake’s beauty and the efforts undertaken to restore its glory,” he added.
Notably, the WCMA is working on the conservation, restoration, and rehabilitation of the Lake spanning 130 sq km. The ongoing efforts include addressing silt accumulation and willow infestation through large-scale earth excavation and willow removal.
“So far, 4.5 sq km has been restored out of 27 sq km, with the remaining 22 sq km undergoing phased restoration,” the official said.
Meanwhile, Deputy Commissioner Bandipora, Dr Owais Ahmad stated that significant work has been done in Wular Lake, making it a popular tourist attraction. “Discussions have been held with the Sports Council and Tourism Department to introduce water sports activities in the lake, aiming to attract a larger number of visitors,” he said.
The administration sanctioned a Rs 200-crore Wular Action Plan in 2018 for the conservation and management of Wular Lake. Restoration efforts have already resulted in the removal of one lakh willow trees, generating revenue of Rs 24 crore for the government. The ongoing dredging has increased the lake’s capacity, benefiting the livelihoods of around 30 villages and providing a habitat for migratory water birds—(KNO)