Editors Columnnainital

Where is the ‘tal’ of Nainital?

Gone are the days when the sight of a brimful lake mesmerized the travelers as soon as they entered the hill station of Nainital. Infact the very name of Nainital roughly translates to an eye shaped lake in Hindi, but as with the case in several cities of Uttarakhand, over exploitation of resources have led the ‘tal’ (lake) of Nainital on course a slow death.

Nani lake water level reach all time low

Despite rainfall of approximately 40mm between May 5 and May 11, Naini lake, the lifeline of this town, appears to have received no respite this season, with water levels touching an all-time low ever since the dry spell began in October 2015.

Less rainfall has compounded manmade factors including encroachment in the catchment area, and water supply from the lake shooting up to 16 million litres per day (MLD), compared to 5-6 MLD in the previous years. Rainfall deficit and human interference are both responsible for the present condition of the lake, which has lost 40% of its water.

Delta’s forming on the lake

The situation in the Naini Lake in getting worse by the day and with the continuously receding water line, delta’s have begun to crop up on the edge of the the lake. The banks of the Naini lake itself resemble more of a beach rather than that of a lake. Gravel, silt deposits and plastic trash “decorate” the shoreline which was once dotted with many paddle boats.

Are we waiting for another disaster before taking any action ?

In September 1880 a landslide (‘the landslip of 1880’) occurred at the north end of the town, burying 151 people. The first known landslide had occurred in 1866, and in 1879 there was a larger one at the same spot, Alma Hill, but “the great slip occurred in the following year, on Saturday 18 September 1880.”

“Two days preceding the slip there was heavy rain, … 20 inches (510 mm) to 35 in (890 mm) fell during the 40 hours ending on Saturday morning, and the downpour still lasted and continued for hours after the slip. This heavy fall naturally brought down streams of water from the hill side, some endangering the Victoria Hotel, … (which) was not the only building threatened … Bell’s shop, the Volunteer Orderly Room and the Hindu (Naina Devi) temple were scenes of labour with a view to diverting streams. At a quarter to two the landslip occurred burying those in and around the buildings mentioned above.”

The number of dead and missing were 108 Indian and 43 British nationals. The Assembly Rooms and the Naina Devi Temple were destroyed in the disaster. A recreation area known as ‘The Flats’ was later built on the site and a new temple was erected. To prevent further disasters, storm water drains were constructed and building bylaws were made stricter.

Nanital is a perfect example of how negligent political administration is destroying up a town and with no solution in sight, the day is not far when the lake in Nainital may become a seasonal one and then become a part of photographs and folklore only.

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