The state of the environment in Nainital - improving!!

On 18 September 2007 (see CUND2007), the aeration of the lake began under management of Mr Gulloo Randhawa. Three months later, Lake Nainital now has a clarity of 3 meters and DO levels of 8.7 on the surface and 7.2 at the bottom - a remarkable transformation. Litter too is being redressed with appointment of lake marshals. 
Note: The DO is dissolved oxygen is expressed in ppm or mg/l.
The oxygen is vital to fish and other aquatic life and for the prevention of odours. DO levels are most important indicator of a water body's ability to support desirable aquatic life.

Background

 In the 1980’s, Nainital or Naini Tal, lake of the eye (naini) of the goddess, was described as “a beautiful butterfly .. turning into an ugly caterpillar”.[1]  Papers presented at a conference at that time describe a sudden rise in vehicle traffic, illegal construction, encroachment and squatting, clustering, noise pollution, vanishing greenery promoting landslides and drains (nullahs) becoming dumping grounds for rubble and sewerage.[2] “Human faeces from leaking sewers”, plastic bags and other materials adding to the throes of the lake and being a source of disease for the residents. Another report stated the lake had “turned dark green with an oily surface and full of dirt, human faeces, horse dung, bags and other waste”.[3]

The report “feels that if nothing is done, the lake will dry up”.  The lake, once described as crystal clear,  is under considerable duress from littering, and uncontrolled drains. While originally having a depth of 28 metres, in a few years this has been reduced by a third to just 20 metres, and is today darkish green and badly littered. One day Nainital will have to be renamed to just Naini, the 'tal' being dry.

A resident wrote to us in 2007

 

The lake was once described as.....

"I have lived in Nainital most of my life. I have seen the town going from bad to worse and I would like to help the town grow better."  A resident of Nainital."

 

“……..the water is as clear as crystal, a beautiful little stream supplied from the springs of the overtopping mountains, is continually running into it, and a small one flowing out of it, a the opposite extremity.  An undulating lawn, with a great deal of level ground, interspersed with occasional clumps of oak, cypress and other beautiful trees, continues from the margin of the lake, for upwards of a mile up to the base of a magnificent mountain standing at the further extreme of this vast amphitheatre; and the sides of the lake are thickly wooded down to the water’s edge.”

 

Scenes of the nullahas showing neglect, unprotected openings and littering 2007

Map of Nullahas (blue lines) click to see larger version

 

 

Government - Indifference
While some money has been allocated, the government was described as being indifferent to the environment, while the government (Kumaon Mandal Vigas Nigam of the State Government and Lake Development Authority) even promoted the construction of illegal triple-storeyed flats.

Hanuman Garhi Park

Hanuman Garhi public park is perched on top of a demonstrably fragile peak overlooking villages. It was described in Nainital Tourism as...

"This is the famous Hanuman temple in Nainital, 3.5 kilometers from the town. Not just the place is famous for the temple, but its sun set view which is quite memorable. The hues of red assimilating with the blues of the evening, it is a sight to behold."

Scenes at Hanuman Garhi Park.....................

Scenes of and around Hanuman Garhi Park (note the vestige of a shade house in left hand photo).

This park is located on top of a fragile hill typical of the hills around Nainital comprised of gravel and some easily leached sand. With various landslides and many vulnerable sections directly above villages, the Forest Department planned to construct their offices. This public park was assumed by government and extensively excavated with the construction of workers buildings and foundations. Construction however was stopped after lobbying from concerned parties notably by a professor of history which is a statement about the nature of sensitivities of government towards the people and the environment.


The results of the petition.
Click to see full size page[4]

But, government does have a responsibility and capacity to make a valuable contribution to Nainital. More information.

But there are signs of change!!

A Special Appreciation Prize poster part of the poster competition.


[1] Dr Ajay Singh Rawat (Petitioner) versus Union of India & Others (Respondents).

[2] Department of Tourism of the UP Government. September 1989.

[3] Mr PC Pande reporting to the District Judge, 2 September 1994.

[4] According to some the local people were intimidated by the indirect link to the omnipotent Magistrate’s Court (which had underpinned the Forest Department’s need for relocation).