Journal of Environmental Protection, 2011, 2, 142-153
doi:10.4236/jep.2011.22016 Published Online April 2011 (
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JEP
Impact of Urban Land Transformation on Water
Bodies in Srinagar City, India
Shahab Fazal, Arshad Amin
Department of Geography, Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh, India.
Received November 8th, 2010; revised December 24th, 2010; accepted February 19th, 2011.
Human actions rather than natural forces are the source of most contemporary changes in the state and flows of the
biosphere. Understanding these actions and the social forces that drive them is crucial to understanding, modelling and
predicting local, regional as well as global environmental change and also for managing and responding to such
change. The present study investigates the patterns of urban land transformation in Srinagar City, which lies in fragile
hill eco-system of Kashmir valley. The resu lts points toward s unplanned and haphazard u rban expansion and transfor-
mation. These transformations have severely destroyed the water bodies both in terms of area as well as its quality.
Keywords: Ur ba n, Land Transformation, Water Bodies, Agriculture, Mar s hy
1. Introduction
Land transformation is one of the most important fields
of human induced environmental transformation, with an
extensive history dating back to antiquity [1]. Land
transformation accelerated and diversified with the onset
of the Industrial Revolution, the globalization of the
world economy and the expansion of population and
technological capacity. Land transformations, although
localized, contribute to wider reaching, regional systemic
processes. The demand for the products of the land is
likely to continue growing in the foreseeable future.
Maintaining the capacity of the land to sustain that de-
mand will remain of fundamental importance. The level
of concern elicited by current trends reflects the possibil-
ity that much land transformation in some sense consti-
tutes land degradation [2]. As land cover, settlement
represents the most profound alteration of the natural
environment by people, through the imposition of struc-
tures, buildings, paved surfaces, and compacted bare
soils on the ground surface. Settlements also create de-
mands that lead to other land-cover changes, such as the
removal of vegetation and soil to extract sand, gravel,
brick clays, and rock; the replacement of vegetation by
planted cover in gardens, parks, sports grounds; the
alienation of ground for landfill and waste treatment;
wetlands and open space conversion for settlements and
the use of land for transportation rou tes.
Alteration is nearly inseparable from human occupa-
tion and use, and the goal is to encourage improvement
and to counter forces that encourage degradation [3]. To
assess what effect a particular land transformation and its
consequences will have involves difficult issues of fore-
casting (future resource demands and opportunities as
affected by technical and socioeconomic change) and
evaluation (distribution and the rights of future genera-
tions). However, we now possess a better scientific
knowledge of the physical extent, character and conse-
quences of land transformation, which serves as the
foundation for any such assessment.
The simultaneous rapid growth in both populatio n and
economic output per capita, and the consequent changes
in land use pattern come at a cost to the natural environ-
ment [4-6]. Demographic growth stimulates structural
change through multiplier effects and behavioural
changes attract immigrants. Urban areas have become the
centre of all the activities - they are expanding in size,
land use is changing quickly, constantly intensifying ur-
ban lands and large-scale land transformation is taking
place due to substantial increases in urban land value and
thus these areas have acquired centre stage. Cities are
man – made physical structure, placed in natural settings.
If the cities are well placed, well planned, well built, they
remain in aesthetic harmony with nature. But cities with
rapid growth (mostly in developing countries) grow
without planning and relationship between urban form
(the built environment) and natu re generates an unending
source of tensions and controversies. Cities need more
Impact of Urban Land Transformation on Water Bodies in Srinagar City, India143
resources and thus constantly keep on expanding, from
the urban core into suburbs in exurbs, separating people
more and more distantly from natural landscape.
The present study focuses on to study the general pat-
tern of urban expansion and land transformation in Sri-
nagar city, further it also try to investigate specifically
the impact of these land transformation on city’s water
bodies, considered as lifeline of the city. The rivers and
lakes are notable not only for their size and volume, but
also for providing habitats for aquatic fauna and flora,
especially for a number of endemic species. Unfortu-
nately, these bodies of water have been greatly affected
by human-induced land use changes. The degradation of
these bodies are largely attributed to extensive agricul-
tural reclamation, resulting in negative ecological con-
sequences, such as frequent flooding, a decline in biodi-
versity and the extinction of a number of endemic species
[7]. In addition, water quality in most wetlands has also
been heavily degraded, mainly due to wastewater dis-
charges, all of which cause widespread eutrophication
[8-10]. The Indian cities are found to be discharging up
to 95% of wastewater directly into rivers, lakes and
streams without any treatment at all. Consequently, the
bacterial level resulting from hu man waste found in these
water bodies are threefold higher than the world average
and 50-fold higher than World Health Organization
guidelines [11]. Moreover, land use activities such as
deforestation and wetland reclamation also affect the
quality and cond ition of freshwater bodies [12,13]. These
land use activities are widespread across the Asian con-
tinent and are particularly pervasive in India.
1.1. Study Area
The present study is for Srinagar city, once called as
Paradise on Earth”, but now the greed of man has
transformed it in to a conflict zone. The study area lies
between 33˚59'14''N and 34˚12'37''N latitude and
74˚41'06''E and 74˚57'27''E longitude, is summer capital
of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The city is located
on both sides of the Riv er Jhelum, locally called Vyeth in
Kashmir (Figure 1). The study area spreads between the
plains of vale of Kashmir along the river Jhelum. The
general relief of the study area is 1 580 m above mean
sea level. The general terrain of the study area is moder-
ate and represents hill topography. The population of
Srinagar city in 1951 was 255 679 which increased up to
952 324 in 2001, recording a growth of +51.06 percent
(the projected population for 2011 is about 1.5 million).
The entire hill area is for the last many years are in tur-
moil with political, economic and so cial conflicts. At the
same time, the city has also witnessed urban forces act-
ing to transform the city landscape.
Figure 1. Location map of srinagar city.
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JEP
Impact of Urban Land Transformation on Water Bodies in Srinagar City, India
2. Methods
The study is mainly based on secondary sources of data,
the data used for the preparation of Land use land cover
of the study area is Town planning map of Srinagar city
1971 on 1:15000 scale. Similarly, th e land use lan d cover
for the later date was carried out using IRS-1D LISS III +
PAN 2008 merged satellite imagery. Both the images
were first geo-corrected and geo-referenced in Earth Re-
source Data Analysis System (ERDAS) Imagine 9.0
software, assigning Universal Transverse Mercator with
World Geocoded system (UTM WGS 84) projection pa-
rameters. Further for assistance in the process of inter-
pretation SOI toposheet was also geo-referenced and was
given similar projection and datum. The area of interest
(Municipal limits of Srinagar city) was extracted by
sub-setting of the town planning map. Satellite imagery
was stacked into different bands to produce a false color
composite, the area of interest was extracted by
sub-setting of the image. These images were digitized in
GIS environment using ArcView 3.2a software in the
form of polygons representing different land use land
cover categories. The data was classified into 14 land use
land cover classes spread over a total area of 23 446.5
hectares of the Srinagar city (which incidentally is also
the Municipal limits). The trend and pattern of urban
expansion was calcu lated and every p olygon representing
the particular class was quantified and displayed in re-
spective maps.
3. Results and Discussion
The present study for Srinagar city is focused to analyze
spatial and temporal information of land cover and land
use patterns as well as the transformations therein. Re-
mote sensing, although challenged by the spatial and
spectral heterogeneity of urban environments [14,15] was
used for the study as these sources are found to be an
appropriate source of urban data to investigate such
studies [16,17].
The present study is spread over 23 446.5 hectares of
land, which is also the municipal limit of the Srinagar
city. From the perusal of Table 1 and Figures 2 and 3, it
is evident that Srinagar city has witnessed large-scale
changes in land use in and around the city. The statistics
shows that urban area has increased from 2410 hectare in
1971 (Box 1) to 6 224 hectare in 2008 (an increase of
158 percent). Similarly built up area has increased from
2556.5 hectare to 6 623.5 hectare (159 percent). All these
increases are at the expense of non – built up area, which
shrunk from 20 890 hectare to 16 823 hectare (a decrease
of 19 percent) during the study period. Significantly, the
city has witnessed major land use changes among classes
such as residential area, commercial area, parks and gar-
dens and industrial area. These changes were basically
swallowed the agricultural and forest land as well as wa-
ter bodies of the study ar ea. Significantly, the water bod-
ies and marshy lands loses 1 449 hectares to the urban
expansion of Srinagar city.
The salient feature of this land transformation is that
Srinagar city has recorded a significant increase in built
up area and this is mainly because of population growth
and development in secondary and tertiary occupation
structure. But this built up expansion was haphazard and
without much planning. The down town area of the city
is characterized by narrow lanes, open drains , poor solid
waste collection and dumping facilities, lack of open
spaces, poor infrastructural facilities etc. Expansion has
taken place largely in a radial manner along the roads.
However because of the topographical limitations the
expansion is restricted in the hilly areas of Alestang in
the north, the mountain peaks of Zabarwan and Basiwan
in the east and the hilly tracks of Khrew and Khan mou in
the south east, also the marshy area of the once Anchar
Lake in the north west of the city, the general trend of
expansion remain ed confined to the north south and we st
direction because of the leveled plain.
3.1. Land Transformation in Srinagar City
Land transformation is the process of identifying differ-
ences in the state of any phenomenon by observing it at
different time periods. Land is in a continuous state of
transformation as a result of various natural and man-
made processes. During the study period, Srinagar city
has not only expanded from its original size but there
was significant interchange of land among various land
use/cover classes. During the study period Srinagar city
has under gone substantial land transformation, but only
in some specific areas, which is the out come of social,
economic, religious and cultural factors.
Table 2, and Figure 4, which are prepared applying
G.I.S. technique, shows the changes in various urban
land use class of the city. These changes are because of
the development of city resulting in increased demand of
land for residential, commercial, industrial etc. purposes.
This demand of land along with site attraction, functional
convenience, functional magnetism and the land value of
that particular area ultimately influence the pace and di-
rection of urban land transformation. The important land
transformation was witnessed among residential, vacant,
plantation/orchards, agriculture and water bodies/marshy
lands. The residential area has increased by 2 776 hectare,
capturing land mainly from agriculture, vacant land,
plantation and villag es. Residential area also lost area for
commercial development. Plantation/orchards land has
reduced by 1 395 hectare this loss was gain for residen-
tial, parks and orchards, restricted and vacant and other
area. Vacant land has lost 262 hectares of land; it loses to
residential class and exchanged land from agriculture and
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JEP
Impact of Urban Land Transformation on Water Bodies in Srinagar City, India145
Table 1. Land use land cover of Srinagar city (1971 and 2008).
Land use 1971 2008 Change % age Change
1. Residential 1074.5 (4.58%) 3851 (16.42%) 2776.5 258.3
2. Semi-urban Village 146 (0.62%) 399 (1.7%) 253 173.2
3. Commercial 143.5 (0.61%) 268.5 (1.14%) 125 87.1
4. Industrial 90.5 (0.39%) 226.5 (0.97%) 136 150.2
5. Parks/Gardens & P.G 140 (0.59%) 372 (1.59%) 232 165.7
6. Restricted Area 446 (1.9%) 715 (3.04%) 269 60.3
7. Vacant 517 (2.2%) 255 (1.08%) -262 -50.6
8. Agriculture 14408 (61.45%) 10949 (46.7%) -3459 -24
9. Plantation/Orchard 1266.5 (5.40%) 2622 (11.18%) 1395.5 110.1
10. Forest 346.5 (1.47%) 153.5 (0.65%) -193 -55
11. Barren 539.5 (2.3%) 480 (2.05%) -59.5 -11
12. Marshy 1667 (7.1%) 468.5 (2%) -1198.5 -71.8
13. Water body 2145.5 (9.15%) 1895 (8.08%) -250.5 -11.6
14. Others (Edu,Govt,Hosp,Relig) 516 (2.2%) 791.5 (3.37%) 275 53
TOTAL 23446.5 23446.5 --- ---
Total Built Up 2556.5 6623.5 4067 159
Total Non Built Up 20890 16823 -4067 -19.46
Total Urban Area 2410.5 6224.5 3814 158.2
Note: Area in hectares. S OURCE: Based on Town planning map of Srinagar city 1971 on 1:15000 scale and IRS-1D LISS; III +
PAN 2008 merged sa tellite imagery of Srinagar city.
Figure 2. Land use land cover of srinagar city 1971.
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JEP
Impact of Urban Land Transformation on Water Bodies in Srinagar City, India
Figure 3. Land use land cover of srinagar city 2008.
Table 2. Srinagar city, land transformation (1971 - 2008).
Land Use 1
Res 2
Vil 3
Com 4
Ind 5
Prk/gr 6
Rest 7
Vac 8
Agr 9
Pl/Orc 10
For 11
Mar 12
Bar 13
Was 14
Area (2008)
1. Residential 1074.5 146 2102145152.5 7760 3851
2. Semi-urban Village 146 5.5322.5 71 399
3. Commercial 14 143.5 111 268.5
4. Industrial 90.5 136 226.5
5. Parks/Gardens & P.g 140 15040 42 372
6. Restricted 446 33.5175.560 715
7. Vacant 517 18568.5 255
8. Agriculture 10914408 214 1081.5 148 10949
9. Plantation/Orchard 21.517871266.5 391084743 2622.5
10. Forest 346.5 153.5
11. Marshy 60 1667 92 468.5
12. Barren 74 43 539.5 480
13. Water body 35 2145.5 1894.5
14. Others
(Edu,Govt, Hosp,Relig,.) 25126.544.5 4927.5 3 516 791.5
Notes: Area in hectares. Figures in bold (diagonally) are area under that particular land use in 1971, while the figures in the same column
represen t the conversion in area to other lan d uses. Similarly, fi gures in the same ro w are increases in area, cap tured from other land uses.
SOURCE: Based on IRS-1D LISS+PAN Sa tellite imagery (2008) and Town pl anning map (1971) of Srinagar city.
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JEP
Impact of Urban Land Transformation on Water Bodies in Srinagar City, India
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JEP
Main Roads
Residential to Commercial
Vac an t to Residenti al
Agriculture to Plantation/Orchard
Agriculture to Resi denti al
Marshy to Agriculture
Marshy to Plantation/ Orc ha rd
Marshy to Residenti al
Marshy to Others
Village to Residential
Water bo dy to Agricul ture
Water bo dy to Marshy
Water bo dy to Others
Other changes
No change
Figure 4. Land transformation in Srinagar city 1971-2008.
plantation/orchards. Another noticeable land transforma-
tion was in water bodies and marshy land, these two land use classes collectively lost 1449 hectares of land mainly
to agriculture, residential and plantation/orchard s.
Box 1. Transformation of water bodies and marshy areas in srinagar city 1971 – 2008. Land cover Area in 1971 (hectares) Transformation Area in 2008 (hectares)
1. Dal
Water body (1538)
Marshy area (1009. 5)
Water body to Ag ric ul tu re (148)
Water body to Marsh - (85)
Marshy to Agricult ure - (650)
Marshy to plantation/Orchard ( 24.5)
Marshy to others – (20)
Marshy to Residential-(35)
Water body (1305)
Marsh (315)
2. Nigeen
Lake Water body – (110) Water body to Plantation – (7) Water body (103)
3. Brari
Nambal Water body – (28)
Marshy area – (72) Water body to Marsh – (7)
Marsh to Plantation/ Orchard – (16)Water body (21)
Marsh (56)
4. Khushalsar Water body – (15)
Marshy area – (91) Marshy to Plantation/ Or-
chard-(33.5) Water body (15)
Marsh (57.5)
5. Rakh-i-
Gandakshah Marshy-(494.5) Marshy to Agriculture – (431.5 )
Marshy to Plantation/Orchard – (34)
Marshy to others – (29) Completely Transformed
Impact of Urban Land Transformation on Water Bodies in Srinagar City, India
3.2. Water Bodies of Srinagar City
The Srinagar city has some very famous water bodies,
which are not only tourist attractions but in many ways
act as lifeline to the city. The water bodies include river
Jhelum, Dal lake, Nigeen lake, Brari Nambal, and
Khushalsar (Figure 5).
River Jhelum: River Jhelum rises from a beautiful
spring called Verinag south east of Srinagar city. It
drains the whole of the study area while flowing diago-
nally in south east to North West direction. It is spread
over 454 hectares of the study area. Jhelum had numer-
ous tributaries which included Kuth-i-kol, Tsont-i-kol,
Mar or snake canal etc. the river Jhelum is also under
urban anthropogenic pressure and there are evidences of
deterioration in water quality.
Dal Lake: This lake is located on the east and north
eastern part of the city, on the right bank of Jhelum, the
lake is fed by the “Arrah” river, flows in a northerly ex-
tremity through a dark and deep channel called Tel Bal or
river of oil. Dal Lake is the largest water body of Srina-
gar city and has been divided into three parts 1) Gagribal,
2) Lokut-Dal, and 3) Bud-Dal. Presently the lake is
spread over 1 620 hectares, consisting 1305 hectares of
water body an d 3 1 5 hect a res of marshy area .
Nigeen Lake: Nigeen Lake is located to the west of
Dal Lake about 9 kms in the north of the city center and
is connected to the lake by a narrow water channel at
Ashai bagh. The area under this lake is 103 hectares.
This is the only lake which did not have marshy banks.
Brari Nambal: Brari Nambal is located about 2 kms
in the north of Lal Chowk (CBD). Its northern part con-
stitutes of water while its southern part is inundated with
the marshy lands. The lake is spread over 77 hectares,
consisting of 21 hectares water body and 56 hectares of
marshy area.
Khushalsar: It is located about 6-7 kms away from
the city center in the north. Khushalsar is a fresh water
lake spread over 67 hectares.
Figure 5. Location of water badies and marshy areas in srinagay city.
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JEP
Impact of Urban Land Transformation on Water Bodies in Srinagar City, India149
Rakh-i-Gandakshah: Rakh-i-Gandakshah is located
about 7 kms from the city center in the western part of
the study area where presently Bemina and Khumani
Chowk exists. The area under this marsh was 494.5 hec-
tares in the year 1971 and up to the year 2008 (Box 2 ) it
got completely transformed to other land uses.
3.3. Transformation of Water Bodies in Srinagar
The main focus of the present study is to investigate the
impact of land transformation on water bodies, which is
ecological critical land cover class of Srinagar city. The
water bodies of the city are characterized by shallow
banks, termed as marshy land, locally known as (dal-dal).
Srinagar city currently has a total of 1895 hectares of
land under water bodies and another 468 hectares of
marshy lands (the shallow banks). Both of these land
cover class have recorded decreases in their coverage
area during the study period (Figure 6).
Water bodies have suffered degradation in both the
area as well as in the quality of water, whereas marshy
areas have been converted either into built-up land or
floating vegetable gardens/floating gardens (locally
known as Rad). The total area under water bodies was 2
145.5 hectares in 1971, which decreased to 1895 hectares
in the year 2008 i.e., decreased by 250.5 hectares, losing
its area to agriculture (148 hectares), marshy (92 hectares)
and others (3 hectares). whereas, water bodies gained
area from marsh (35 hectares). Similarly, Marshy area
has decreased from 1667 hectares to 468.5 hectares dur-
ing the study period , recording a decrease of 1198.5 hec-
tares, it lost area to agriculture (1081.5 hectares), planta-
tion/orchards (108 hectares), residential (77 hectares),
others (49 hectares) and water body (35 hectares).
Box 2. Causes and consequences of transformation of water bodies and marshy areas in srinagar.
Nature and location of Transfor-
mation Area transformed
(1971-2008) Main activities Impacts
Water body to Agriculture:
1. West of Dal Lake: adjoining
Hazratbal (25 hectares)
2. Rainawari (40 hectares)
3. Lokut Dal (83 hectares)
148 hectares
Illegal encroachments of the lake area
and practicing of agricultural activi-
ties especially, floating gardens pro-
ducing mainly vegetables.
Shrinking of the Lake, se di -
mentation and pollution.
Water body to Marshy:
1. East of Dal Lake (58 hectares)
2. Gagribal (17 hectares)
3. Lokut Dal adjacent to Gagribal
(10 hectares)
4. Brari nambal (7 hectares)
92 hectares Effluents from houses , hotels, restau-
rants and especially the house boats
lead to over growth of dense weed.
Conversion of Water body to
Water body to plantation:
1. West of Nigeen lake 7 hectares Tourist related activities Shrinking along the western
side of the lake
Marshy to Agriculture:
1. Both in Lokut and Bud Dal basins
in West of Dal Lake ( 62 1 he c -
2. Dal Lake adjoining to Jogi lankar
(15 hectares) and Rainawari (12
3. Rakh-i-Gandakshah- Bemina (198
4. Khumani Chowk (243.5 hectares)
1081.5 hectares Marshy lands are filled to convert into
floating gardens to produce crops and
Complete conversion o f
Marshy areas to Agriculture,
leading to water logging and
Marshy to Plantation/Orchard:
1. Southern Khuhalsar (33.5 hec-
2. In Rakh-i-Gandakshah (34 hec-
3. Lokut Dal (24.5 hectares )
Brari nambal (16 hectares)
108 hectares Urban forestry Significant area under marsh
got shrunk leading to water
logging and flooding.
Marshy to others:
1. Rakh-i-Gandakshah (29 hectares)
2. Some patches in the west of Dal
lake at Hazratbal (20 hectares)
49 hectares Conversion into built-up land Complete transformation of
marshy area leading to ex-
tinction of this marsh
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JEP
Impact of Urban Land Transformation on Water Bodies in Srinagar City, India
Figure 6. Location of water badies and marshy areas in srinagay city (1971-2008).
However, it gained land from water body (92 hectares)
and agriculture (60 hectares).
Water body to Agriculture: During the study period
148 hectares of area under water was transformed to ag-
riculture. The significant transformation of water bodies
to agriculture has been observed in the west of the Dal
Lake, the area adjoining to the Hazratbal (25 hectares),
Rainawari (40 hectares) and in the southern part or Lokut
Dal area of Dal Lake (83 hectares). Here the Dal dwellers
(Hanjis) have illegally encroached upon the lake area and
practicing various agricultural activities especially,
floating gardens producing mainly vegetables. This
vegetable cultiv ation is to cater the city de mand, which is
also crucial to city economy as an estimated vegetable
worth 35 crores are produced and supplied from these
floating gardens every year.
Water body to Marshy: The Srinagar city has ob-
served 92 hectares of area under water was transformed
to marshy lands. This transformation was mainly along
the eastern part of Dal Lake (58 hectares), some scattered
patches in Gagribal basin (17), adjoining Lokut Dal basin
(10 hectares), where rapid undergrowth of weeds, espe-
cially the recent grown up weed Azolla Pinnata has con-
verted the water into dense marsh. This growth of weeds
was mainly because of various nitrogen and phosphorous
effluent discharge from houses, hotels, restaurants and
the house boats. Also this type of conversion has been
experienced in the Brari Nambal water body (7 hectares)
where people have illegally converted water in to floating
Water body to Plantation/Orchard: This transforma-
tion has been observed on the east and the west banks of
the Nigeen Lake where 7 hectares of water area has been
converted into plantation.
Marshy to Agriculture: The Srinagar city has wit-
nessed large scale land transformation of shallow marshy
area. The Srinagar city has lost 1081 hectares of marshy
area to agricultural lands. This transformation was
prominent at Bud and Lokut Dal region of western Dal
Lake (621 hectares), some patches in Nigeen Lake, and
Dal waters adjacent to Jogi lankar (15 hectares) and
Rainawari (12 hectares) etc. Here marshy area was con-
verted into the Floating/vegetable gardens (Rad) by the
boat man people (Hanjis) of the lake which is the major
source of their income. Similarly, Rakh-i- Gandakshah
marsh at Bemina (198 hectares) and Khumani Chowk
(243.5hectares) in the west of Srinagar got completely
converted into agricultural land because this is a leveled
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JEP
Impact of Urban Land Transformation on Water Bodies in Srinagar City, India151
plain with good road accessibility.
Marshy to Plantation/Orchard: The Srinagar city has
recorded 108 hectares of marshy land transformed plan-
tation/ orchard class. This was mainly in the south of
Khushalsar Lake in the north (33.5 hectares), south of
Rakh-i- Gandakshah (34 hectares). Some patches have
also been transformed in Lokut Dal area of south Dal
Lake (24.5 hect ares) a n d 1 6 hectares in Brari Nambal.
Marshy to others: Marshy land got also transformed
to other class i.e., Educational, Governmental, Hospital
and Religious class mostly, in the west of the study area
at Bemina (29 hectares) and in the west Dal Lake (20
3.4. Urban Land Transformation and Its Impact
on Water Bodies of Srinagar City
The water bodies of Srinagar city are important land-
scapes of the city because they are not only tourist attrac-
tions but are embedded with city’s economic, social and
cultural existence. These water bodies are also crucial for
ecological balance of the city. The present study reveals
that the expansion of Srinagar city and land transforma-
tion therein has severely affected the aerial extent of wa-
ter bodies as well as the quality of water. The noticeable
impacts and their consequences are as follows:
Settlements around water bodies: The water bodies
of Srinagar city is experiencing mushrooming of settle-
ments around the water bodies. The prime victim of this
trend is Dal lake which is being occupied by people for
residence and over the years it has expanded as well as
became denser. At present Dal lake provides shelter to
about 50 hamlets with a population of over 50 000 peo-
ple, who have property rights over 300 hectares (6 000
kanals) of agricultural land and 670 hectares (13 400
kanals) of water area. Besides this, a large number of
commercial and residential buildings such as hotels,
guest houses and restaurants have sprung up in and
around the Dal lake. These settlements spill all their
wastes into the lakes. This results in increasing levels of
pollution because of the ingress of untreated sewage and
solid waste from the peripheral areas and from the ham-
lets into the lake resu lting in sedimentation an d excessive
weed growth. Moreover, reduction and clogging of water
channels within the lake because of encroachments leads
to reduction of fresh water inflow into the lake.
House boats in water bodies: House boats are one of
the most preferred attractions of Srinagar city, presently
there are more than 1 200 house boats inside the Dal
Lake. These house boats also eject out their wastes di-
rectly into lake again resulting in sedimentation and ex-
cessive weed growth. Presently the 1 200 house boats
inside the Dal Lake and an estimated 9 000 metric tons of
waste annually dispo s ed directly into Dal Lake.
Agricultural activity in and around water bodies:
The hanjis (Dal dwellers) belong to poor socio-economic
class of the city and they draw their livelihood from ag-
ricultural activities. These hanjis have illegally en-
croached upon the lake area by filling up the lake and
transforming the lake in to floating gardens. These float-
ing gardens are engaged for vegetable cultivation. This
transformation leads not only to shrinking of lake area
but agricultural activity also results in increased sedi-
mentation of soil and chemicals in to the lake.
Rise in the influx of nutrients: The water bodies are
also subject to pollu tion with influx of chemicals in th em.
Studies reveals that there are 15 major drains get emptied
into the lake waters which are charged with nutrients and
carry about 18.17 tons of phosphorous and 25 tons of
inorganic nitrogen, enriching the lake waters and the
sediments [18]. Even the water quality of river Jhelum
has also got deteriorated due to the direct discharge of
urban waste including both domestic and human excreta
and almost every water body has now turned into the
“Reservoir of Sewage” wastes and effluents [19]. The
water tests have also found high level of pH value, total
alkalinity, nitrogen and total phosphorous in the waters
of Dal lake [20] (Box 3).
Box 3. Chemical effluents in water bodies of srinagar city.
Hazratbal Basin Lokut Dal Basin Gagribal Basin Nigeen Basin
Parameters 1977 2007 1977 2007 1977 2007 1977 2007
pH 7.7-9.5 6.9-9.5 7.4-9.5 7.9-9.27.5-9.57.3-9.4 7.7-9.5 7.2-9.0
Total Alkalinity
(mg 1-1) 70-120 44-164 22-210 29-16070-12520-126 80-134 22-204
Nitrate- Nitr o gen
(µg 1-1) 80-650 100-
3680 95-691 150-
2800 80-60380-3360 90-632 90-
Total Phosphorous
(µg 1-1) 62-623 76-820 65-620 48-75070-506100-840 90-873 96-580
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JEP
Impact of Urban Land Transformation on Water Bodies in Srinagar City, India
Growth of weeds in water bodies: The land trans-
formations and activities in and around the water bodies
have resulted in rapid undergrowth of weeds in all the
water bodies in Srinagar city, especially the recent grown
up weed Azolla Pinnata. This has converted the water
into dense marsh because of various nitrogen and phos-
phorous effluents dumped by houses, hotels, restaurants
and the house boats, which act as the fertilizer to these
weeds. Studies have found that there is an explosive
growth of duckweed, water ferns, and algae in the water
bodies of Srinagar city [21].
Shrinking of water bodies: This is the most glaring
outcome of land transformations in Srinagar city. The
present study shows that water bodies/marsh are reduced
by nearly 1450 hectares during the study period of 1971
to 2008. Other studies have found this loss even more
severe, which suggest that more than 50 percent of the
water bodies have been lost in the suburbs of Srinagar
city during the last century [22].
Local climatic change: There are also evidences of
rise in the mean maximum temperatures of Srinagar city.
The main reason attributed to this local microclimatic
variation is again large scale land transformation and
shrinking water bodies in the city. Studies suggest that
mean maximum temperatures during summers shows a
rising trend [22]. A perusal of average temperature data
in the month of July during the study period have in-
creased by almost 4 degree celsius.
Occurrence of floods and water logging: The
shrinking and the squeezing of water bodies and marsh in
Srinagar city has also resulted in higher and increased
incidence of floods and water logging especially in and
after rainy season. The main reason is again the land
transformation, since, these marshy areas and water bod-
ies used to act as the sponge and take in water, prevent-
ing it to spill in low-lying areas of the city. Now with
lesser area under water bodies and marsh, the flood haz-
ard is a regular feature.
4. Conclusions
The above analysis clearly points towards the fact that
urban expansion has swallowed a significant proportion
of the water bodies and the marshy areas of Srinagar city
during the study period of 37 years (19 71 - 2008) an d the
process is still continuing . Moreover, the quality of water
is also deteriorating at an alarming rate. There is an ur-
gent need to protect and preserve, once the “Paradise on
Earth” for future generations. These water bodies are
precious because they are not only tourist attractions but
they also act as lifeline to the city as it provides liveli-
hood to a large population, directly or indirectly. Thus,
proper management is the need of the hour for both
maintaining ecological balance as well as sustainability
of Srinagar city.
The study suggests three important measures for the
sustainable management of water bodies in Srinagar city:
1) The foremost remedy lies in restricting any increase
in the settlements in and around these water bodies and
marshy lands. In this perspective, the governments’ pro-
active approach is essential because state high court in
2003 has already banned all kinds of constructional ac-
tivities within 200 meters from the periphery of Dal
2) Further, the already settled population in and around
the lake area should be relocated and rehabilitated out-
side the Dal Lake periphery. In this context some efforts
have already been made by some agencies (Jammu and
Kashmir lakes and Water Ways Authority), where some
1221 families living in 441 houses have been resettled
but their total rehabilitation is still pending. Government
again requires taking initiative to relocate and rehabilitate
the remaining 5 02 9 fa milies left there .
3) Another important task for preserving the water
bodies is to get rid from duckweed, water ferns, and al-
gae. There must be sincere efforts to perform deweeding
and dredging activities on periodic basis in the affected
water bodies to maintain water clean. Further, Srinagar
city requires operational sewage treatment plants so that
no untreated sewage is disposed off in any of the water
bodies. Studies have also suggested using weed as raw
material to produces organic manur e; this will serve dual
purpose of cleaning of water and utilizing the waste.
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