POKHARA, July 29: Rupa Lake, an attraction for tourists to the south-east of Pokhara, is at the high risk of extinction as various factors like human encroachment and uncontrolled spread of invasive plant species have threatened its existence and beauty.
Pollution, unmanaged tourist activities and rampant spread of water hyacinth has also degraded the beauty and water quality of the lake, shrinking it at a considerable level. Likewise, deposition of mud and various particles through water released from flooding and landslide has also caused the lake's bed to rise up.
"The lake is shrinking every year. Its depth has also reduced considerably," says Dina Nath Dhakal, chairman of the Rupa Tal Conservation and Tourism Promotion Committee.
The report made public by the Lekhnath Municipality recently says that of the total 163.9 hectare of land belonging to the lake, only 121.76 hectares are occupied by the lake while crops are grown on 33.43 hectares. Likewise, 8.75 hectares is occupied by wetland area.
"If the lake shrinkage continues at this rate, it will be at a serious risk within a decade," he says.
He says that the ongoing construction of tracks surrounding the lake has also threatened it. "Soils used to construct the tracks will loosen and slide down into the lake when it rains, thus contributing to the shrinkage."
So conservation of the lake should be taken into account while constructing such tracks, he says, adding that it is also the responsibility of the local people to create pressure on concerned authorities to complete the construction of tracks surrounding the lake in time.
Similarly, Chairman of the Rupa Tal Punarsthapan and Matsya Palan Sahakari Sangh, a cooperative for the restoration of the Rupa Lake and fisheries development, Kul Prasad Adhikari is also concerned over the degrading beauty of the lake.
He stresses the need for concerned authorities to do the needful to conserve it, pointing out the need for building an embankment around the lake. "Alongside the construction of embankment, cultivation of crops in the area should be banned," he says.
Included in the Ramsar list and located at the border of Rupkot, Hansapur and Majhathana in Kaski, the lake covering an area of 1.35 Square Kilometre, serves as one of the famous tourist destinations. It also provides a great source of income to local people. Local people are earning their daily livelihood by operating boats and running fishery in the lake. The freshwater lake has a catchment area of 30 Square Kilometers.
Besides its beauty and scenery, tourists including domestic and foreign visit the lake for fishing as well. Around 150 kilograms fish are caught on a daily basis, a local resident says.
Likewise, 19 boats are in operation on the lake to tour visitors including foreign tourists around while tourists visit the lake for swimming and fishing as well.
The lake is also serving as a dating spot for couples of late; apart from people taking an interest in enjoying viewing the activities of birds and scenery also visit the lake. The area is home to 134 types of wild animals and birds, 361 types of vegetation and 175 types of forest medicinal herbs.
Meanwhile, in a bid to conserve lakes, including the Rupa Lake, concerned authorities and local people have joined hands and pulled up their sleeves. Likewise, works are underway to construct an international-standard zoological garden in Lekhnath Municipality on the banks of the lake on the initiatives of local United Club Pokhara and with the participation of the locals, says the Club chairman and coordinator of the Zoological Garden Construction Committee, Himalaya Bakhrel.
He believes that the construction of the zoo would help attract as many as tourists including domestic and foreign to the area housing the lake as well.
With the nine lakes including Rupa in Kaski enlisted as Ramsar sites, the government has made preparations for the management and conservation of the lakes. And the Conservation Development Foundation under the Hariyo Ban Program has been entrusted with preparing a plan for this purpose.
The foundation chairman Shailendra Pokharel says that his office is working to prepare the plan after holding consultations with the concerned authorities. RSS