Dal Lake Travel

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Dal Lake Srinagar

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Location: in the Kashmir Valley, immediately northeast of Srinagar, Jammu & Kashmir
Area: 1670 ha
Altitude: 1587 m
Biogeographical province: 2.38.12
Wetland type: 13,14

Description of site: One of a series of freshwater lakes in the Kashmir Valley, Dal Lake is a multi-basined, ox bow type of lake, with shallow saucer-shaped basins (Hazratbal, Boddal, Gafribal, and Nagin) formed by the changing course of the river Jhelum. It is connected by a system of channels with Nagin and Anchar Lakes to the northwest. Regular inflow and outflow of water takes place through the channels. The main source of water for the lake is the Telbal Nalla in the Dachigam area, numerous springs arising from the bottom of the lake and outwash from the surrounding mountains on the western Boddal and Gagribal basin side. The outflow of the lake is on the western side into an arm of the Jhelum Water flows out through a weir-and-lock system. The maximum depth is 6.5 m, while the average depth is less than 3 m. Water levels, which fluctuate during the course of a year, are maximum in April and minimum in November. The pH values of the lake fall within the alkaline range Until recently, the entire Kashmir Valley was one huge lake Satisaras; today it is drained more freely through the Pir Panjal Range at Baramula to the plains of the Punjab.

Gradual siltation created a vast marshland where human, inhabitants began constructing a network of canals, embanked ditches, bonded ponds and lagoons. Over 850 years ago, an embankment was built along the Tsonti-i-Kul canal draining surplus water to the Jhelum river in order to prevent flooding of the Dal Lake area. In the Gazetteer of Kashmir (1870-72), Captain Bates calculated that the lake extended 9.6 km from north to south and 4.8 km from east to west, had an average depth of 2.3 m, reaching 8 m deep in places. Its original area of 3600 ha had been reduced by 1950, to only 2100 ha. In 1980, the area was calculated to be only 1200 ha, and in most places, especially at Boulevard, Hazrat Bal, and Gagribal, the water was only 1-1.5m deep. The catchment of the lake comprises scanty forests along the periphery, flat and arable land, and densely populated settlements, including Srinagar city. The lake is gradually silting up partly because of reduced inflow, but largely through modification of the catchment area and local developments in Srinagar. The waters of the interconnecting channels, once described by Bates as "clear and soft as silk", are now heavily polluted

Climatic conditions: Montane valley climate with a pronounced cold season from October to March (average temperature 7.5°C) and warm summers (average temperature 19.8° C). January is the coldest month (-2°C to 3° C), and July the warmest (34° C-35° C). The average annual rainfall is 551 mm. Most of the precipitation is in the form of snow (January-March). Summer monsoon rainfall is scanty

Principal vegetation: Submerged hydrophytes dominated by Myriophyllum spicatum, Ceratophyllum demersum, and Potamogeton sp. in the deeper parts of the lake cover the maximum area (57.6% of the total) in all the basins; Alisma plantago, Juncos glaucus, and Hydrilla verticillata occupy the shallow areas; extensive free-floating mats,of Lemma sp., Salvinia ratans, and Spirodella polyrhiza cover the surface. Rooted-floating leaf macrophytes dominated by Nelumbom nucifera, Nymphaea albs, and Nymphoides peltata occupy 29.2 % of the lake area. Emergent species Typha angustata and Phragmites communis are found in the littoral zone. A total of 84 taxa of phytoplankton, of which 50 belong to Chlorophyceae, and 16 each to Cyanophyceae and Bacillariophyceae, have been recorded. A special feature of Dal Lake is the abundance of floating gardens and demb lands. The latter are artificially created islands, usually near the lake margin, within a retaining wall of small Salix trees. The floating gardens are held in place by willow rods and are composed of masses of reeds, mud, and aquatic vegetation, which forma highly fertile substrate used for the cultivation of a variety of crops, particularly vegetables

Land tenure: Partly state-owned and partly privately owned

Conservation measures taken: None

Conservation measures proposed: A team of consultants from New Zealand visited Kashmir in 1977 to study the problem of pollution of Dal Lake and recommended the following measures for restoring the water quality: reduction in the nutrient and silt inflow by catchment area treatment, including afforestation; erection of a settling basin for silt; dredging in the northern part of the lake; extension of the present foreshore road on the eastern side; construction of a bond to separate floating gardens from the open water; harvesting of weeds; and improvement of water circulation in the lake. Although work on this Dal Lake Development Project is being undertaken by the State Government, there are differences of opinion on the manner in which the entire restoration programme is being executed, with emphasis on engineering works instead of an integrated approach. The construction of a basin in the Telbal Nalla to remove much of the sediment load before it enters the lake is envisaged. To combat the problems of sewage flow and garbage dumping in the lake, plans for a comprehensive system of waste disposal have been drawn up. The catchment area must be protected by conserving vegetation and soil to ensure a continuous flow of water even during dry periods. One of the first steps in watershed protection must be a reduction in the huge populations of domestic sheep. Plans have been made to establish a Deer Park-cum-Education Centre near the lake. It has been suggested that this should include a small bird sanctuary and wildfowl park which would aim to introduce the general public to wetlands and their birds by means of a collection of tame wildfowl combined with a wild bird area (Ounstead, 1986)

Land use: The waters of Dal Lake support a permanent floating population of some 7000 people, with whole villages having in effect been illegally created in the lake. The Lake supports a huge floating market-garden industry, an important fishery (eg. mirror carp), and a booming tourist industry. Weeds are harvested for cattle fodder. The lake also acts as a sump for a great deal of the waste products from Srinagar

Possible changes in land use: Recently, the Srinagar Municipality granted a licence for the establishment of a power loom factory on the periphery of the Nagin basin (northeastern part of Dal Lake). The noise generated by the looms is likely to disturb the nesting and breeding waterbirds

Disturbances and threats: Dal Lake, subjected to an ever-increasing rate of eutrophication and siltation, has been estimated to totally disappear within the next 50 years. Siltation has increased significantly since a number of streams and rivulets which joined the lake on its western margin were dammed or filled during the construction of a circular road around the old city. The Telbal Nalla has deposited as much as 80,000 tonnes of silt in the lake in a single year, largely because of deforestation in the water catchment area. Large quantities of fertiliser are applied to the surrounding intensively cultivated land, and much of this enters the lake as run-off. It has been estimated that 14.8 tonnes of phosphorous and 322.1 tonnes of nitrogen enter the lake each year. A floating fern Salvinia ratans has begun to colonise the lake from tributary channels and has been estimated to add 40,000-50,000 tonnes of dry debris sediment to the lake every year. Every day, over 50,000 kilolitres of sullage enter the Jhelum and other channels directly connected to the lake. The volume of pollutants and sediments reaches a peak during the summer months, when over 1700 houseboats and hundreds of hotels support an extra 500,000 people per season. The level of pollution is now having a drastic effect on the number and variety of waterfowl utilising the lake, and must be having a serious impact on fish production. The recent red water’ phenomenon due to Euglenoid bloom in the lake is a positive indication of the lake being organically polluted

Economic and social values: Dal Lake has long been famous as one of the most beautiful lakes in the world, its aesthetic grandeur having been greatly enhanced by the efforts of successive Moghul emperors. The lake has thus become an extremely valuable tourist resort, with an estimated 500,000 visitors each year although tourism has suffered in recent years because of political instability and militant activity in the state. The floating gardens and demb lands are an important source of vegetables, and the lake itself supports a significant fishery and is an important source of fodder plants

Fauna: Formerly a very important breeding area for a variety of waterfowl, notably little bittern, night heron, paddybird, little egret, grey heron and whiskered tern, and also a wintering area for large numbers of Anatidae. However, the avifauna of Dal Lake is now in serious decline, and only small numbers of birds have been recorded in recent years.The ichthyofauna of the lake comprises the exotic Cyprinus carpio, and the indigenous carp Schizothorax among others

Special floral values: No information

Research and facilities: A considerable amount of research has been carried out on the lakes in the Kashmir Valley, notably by the Department of Botany at the University of Kashmir. In recent years, work on Dal Lake has focussed on the problems of siltation, eutrophication, and pollution.

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