Natural lakes on the verge of drying up in KailaliThe district is blessed with around 200 natural lakes but they are at risk due to environmental degradation, say conservationists.
Degradation of natural resources, such as drying up of lakes, at a rapid pace has conservationists in Kailali questioning the future of the region. “Mudslides that are occuring due to deforestation are killing many lakes in the Kailali. If this continues, there will be no lakes in the district in the near future,” said Hirulal Dagaura, a conservationist.
Puraina Lake in Bhajani Municipality used to be one of the largest lakes in the district covering 80 bighas of land. Today, however, there are no signs of the lake: it has dried up and the locals have turned the land into a vegetable field.
The district that is blessed with around 200 natural lakes is gradually losing all its water bodies. Like Puraina, most lakes in Kailali district are on the verge of drying up. These lakes support various species of fish and are home to aquatic birds and Ghongi (mud-water snails). Manasari Chaudhary, a local, said, “In the past, there were plenty of fish in Puraina Lake. We would go fishing in the lake and come across ducks and cranes. But the birds have abandoned the area. The lake has dried up.”
Bijayaraj Shrestha, also a conservationist, says that Puraina Lake used to host migratory birds during the migration season but now the birds have changed their route due to lack of water bodies. “Aquatic birds long stopped coming to Puraina Lake. The mudslides dirtied the water eventually drying it up.” He said, “There are 20 natural lakes in Bhajani Municipality alone. But most of these lakes are on the verge of drying up due to lack of conservation.”
Nainamati Kathariya, a local, says that the Puraina lake did not just support aquatic life but was also suitable for the growth of edible greens. “We used to collect green leafy vegetables (Pani Saag, Dhodi Saag) from the lake area. But, now that the lake has dried up, so have the vegetables,” said Kathariya.
Bhajani is mostly inhabited by farmers who rear livestock.
The drying up of the Puraina Lake has also gone on to affect the livelihood of farmers, as farmers from five villages bring their cattle to the lake area to graze. Aaitabari Chaudhary, a local farmer, said, “These days we have to take our cattle to Mohana or Charra lake, which is one kilometre away from Puraina.”
Locals have also realised their mistake in turning the lake area into an agricultural patch of land, and have asked the local unit’s help to revive it. “When the water in the lake began to recede, most villagers saw an opportunity to turn the lake area into farmland. But that was done in haste. Since the lake area is public land, the municipality should make efforts to revive the lake and maintain biodiversity,” said Kathariya.
Sher Bahadur Chaudhary, mayor of Bhajani Municipality, said that they had allocated Rs 800,000 for the reconstruction of Puraina Lake last year. “We had tried to fence the lake area to keep locals out, but they obstructed the construction work,” he said, adding that the municipality office has been trying to conduct talks with the locals to allow the municipality to rebuild the lake.
According to him, 40 families are cultivating paddy and wheat in the area where the lake used to stand. He said, “If we are to preserve what’s left of the lake and to resuscitate it, we need the locals’ support. It’s a good thing that some of them are understanding the importance of preserving the lake.”
Meanwhile, the local units have started fisheries in most of the lakes in Kailali. They have hired contractors to run the fisheries but conservationists fear that the contractors have not paid attention to maintaining the ecology of these water bodies. “The contractors are cutting down trees on the pretext of cleaning the lakes,” said Dagaura. The Post tried to contact the contractors of the fisheries but they were not available for comment.
Some big lakes like Semarhuwa, Kahiarhuwa, Tedi Praseni in Ghodaghodi area have already dried up whereas Rakhauna and Chamaraiya lakes in Kailari Rural Municipality are also on the verge of drying up.