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Current Status of Wetlands in Srinagar City: Threats, Management Strategies, and Future Perspectives

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Wetlands are the most diverse, highly dynamic, productive, and ecologically sensitive areas in Earth. In Kashmir Himalaya, Srinagar city is bestowed with a large number of picturesque wetlands. These wetlands are important in regulating ecosystem services such as providing fresh water supplies, food products, fisheries, water purification, harbor biodiversity, and regulation of regional climate. These are also important as socioeconomic support systems for the city inhabitants and valued as habitats of migratory birds that visit Kashmir valley from different continents of the world. Owing to the increased rate of anthropogenic activities and anthropogenically driven changes in natural processes, these wetlands are degrading at an alarming rate, seriously affecting their health and water quality. The major threats to wetlands include pollution, land use and land cover changes, urbanization and encroachments, and climate change. The intensive agricultural practices, introduction of exotic species, and changes in hydrological flows during the past few decades have resulted in degradation of wetlands over this region. Sustainable management of wetlands is crucial as these ecosystems offer an array of ecological functions that sustain livelihoods all over the world. This review provides special insights about the significant changes in spatial scale, land use and land cover changes, and water quality of major wetlands in Srinagar city.
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REVIEW
published: 22 January 2020
doi: 10.3389/fenvs.2019.00199
Frontiers in Environmental Science | www.frontiersin.org 1January 2020 | Volume 7 | Article 199
Edited by:
Michael M. Douglas,
University of Western
Australia, Australia
Reviewed by:
Gulnihal Ozbay,
Delaware State University,
United States
M. Jahangir Alam,
University of Houston, United States
Bradley James Pusey,
Charles Darwin University, Australia
*Correspondence:
Sami Ullah Bhat
samiullahbhat11@gmail.com
Specialty section:
This article was submitted to
Freshwater Science,
a section of the journal
Frontiers in Environmental Science
Received: 14 May 2019
Accepted: 09 December 2019
Published: 22 January 2020
Citation:
Dar SA, Bhat SU, Rashid I and Dar SA
(2020) Current Status of Wetlands in
Srinagar City: Threats, Management
Strategies, and Future Perspectives.
Front. Environ. Sci. 7:199.
doi: 10.3389/fenvs.2019.00199
Current Status of Wetlands in
Srinagar City: Threats, Management
Strategies, and Future Perspectives
Shahid Ahmad Dar 1, Sami Ullah Bhat 1
*, Irfan Rashid 2and Sajad Ahmad Dar 3
1Department of Environmental Science, School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Kashmir, Hazratbal
Srinagar, India, 2Geoinformatics Program, School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Kashmir, Hazratbal
Srinagar, India, 3Department of Environmental Science, Uttarakhand Technical University, Dehradun, India
Wetlands are the most diverse, highly dynamic, productive, and ecologically sensitive
areas in Earth. In Kashmir Himalaya, Srinagar city is bestowed with a large number of
picturesque wetlands. These wetlands are important in regulating ecosystem services
such as providing fresh water supplies, food products, fisheries, water purification,
harbor biodiversity, and regulation of regional climate. These are also important as
socio-economic support systems for the city inhabitants and valued as habitats of
migratory birds that visit Kashmir valley from different continents of the world. Owing
to the increased rate of anthropogenic activities and anthropogenically driven changes in
natural processes, these wetlands are degrading at an alarming rate, seriously affecting
their health and water quality. The major threats to wetlands include pollution, land
use and land cover changes, urbanization and encroachments, and climate change.
The intensive agricultural practices, introduction of exotic species, and changes in
hydrological flows during the past few decades have resulted in degradation of wetlands
over this region. Sustainable management of wetlands is crucial as these ecosystems
offer an array of ecological functions that sustain livelihoods all over the world. This review
provides special insights about the significant changes in spatial scale, land use and land
cover changes, and water quality of major wetlands in Srinagar city.
Keywords: wetland ecosystems, land system changes, water quality, management strategies, Srinagar, Kashmir
Himalaya
INTRODUCTION
Wetlands are ecosystems intermediate between aquatic and terrestrial systems, which are
permanently or seasonally covered with shallow water (Mitsch and Gosselink, 1986). They occupy
6% of earth’s land surface (Maltby, 1988). Wetlands are productive (Ghermandi et al., 2008)
and biologically diverse ecosystems (Keddy et al., 2009). They provide numerous socio-economic
and ecosystem services (Prasad et al., 2002; Ramsar Convention Bureau., 2002) including wildlife
habitat, maintenance and conservation of biodiversity (Mitsch and Gosselink, 2007; Whitehouse
et al., 2008), water purification (Brown et al., 2000), fisheries and recreation (Keddy, 2010; Junk
et al., 2013), flood control (Penatti et al., 2015), water supply (Lemly, 1994), nutrient removal (Raich
and Schlesinger, 1992), carbon sequestration (Turner et al., 2000), and environmental restoration
(Fink and Mitsch, 2007; Moreno et al., 2007). Wetlands serve as a means of livelihood for rural
Dar et al. Wetland Dynamics in Srinagar Kashmir
FIGURE 1 | Global Wetland Extent Index (Source: Leadley et al., 2014).
populations (Turyahabwe et al., 2013; Lamsal et al., 2015),
particularly in developing nations and are greatly valued by
many cultures (Ghermandi et al., 2010; Maltby and Acreman,
2011). Owing to the high potential of wetlands for agricultural
productivity, fisheries, and water supply, many of the wetlands
of the world have been historically relied upon by human
civilizations. In spite of the ecosystem functions and sustenance
of human livelihoods, 30–90% of the wetlands of the world
are strongly modified or lost (Junk et al., 2013; Reis et al.,
2017) and many remain threatened and degraded due to high
population pressure and urbanization (Central Pollution Control
Board, 2008; Bassi et al., 2014). Davidson (2014) reviewed 189
reports and estimated wetland loses as 64–71% in the twenty-first
century. There was a decline of 69–75% in the extent of inland
wetlands and 62–63% decline in the extent of coastal wetlands.
Wetland losses continue in the twenty-first century. Leadley
et al. (2014) found the Wetland Extent Index and estimated
40% decline in coverage of both inland and coastal/marine
wetland ecosystems during last 40 years due to fragmentation and
degradation (Figure 1).
Presently, the wetland ecosystems are under tremendous
stress due to massive land system changes and infrastructure
development (Pramod et al., 2011), as well as intensification
of agricultural and industrial activities (Bassi et al., 2014),
manifested by the decline in their areal extent resulting in a
decline in the hydrological, economic, and ecological functions
(Bassi et al., 2014). This has led to adoption of various policies
and approaches for conservation, protection, and management of
wetlands [Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), 2006].
CURRENT STATUS OF WETLANDS IN
SRINAGAR CITY
Srinagar city in Kashmir Himalaya has a rich natural heritage
of magnificent lakes and picturesque wetlands (Figure 2) lying
along the floodplains of river Jhelum, which are famous
waterfowl habitats (Kaul and Pandit, 1980; Habib, 2014). Besides
being a source of attraction for tourists from all over the world,
these freshwater ecosystems of the Kashmir Himalaya have been
playing a great role in the socio-cultural activity and economy
(Kaul and Pandit, 1980; Pandit, 1982) of the valley since ancient
times. They are a great source of natural products like fish, fodder,
vegetables, tourism, and a variety of economically important
aquatic plants (Pandit and Qadri, 1990; Bano et al., 2018).
However, over the last few decades, the deteriorating water
quality (Verma et al., 2001; Rashid et al., 2017a) and land system
changes (Romshoo and Rashid, 2014; Rashid and Aneaus, 2019)
including encroachment of otherwise notified wetland areas and
depleting stream flows (Mitsch and Gosselink, 2000; Showqi
et al., 2014; Romshoo et al., 2015) have impacted their health
(Iwanoff, 1998; Chauhan, 2010; Naja et al., 2010; Reza and Singh,
2010).
Nowadays, wetlands are being recognized as “wastelands”
serving as grounds for a variety of waste materials (Khan et al.,
2004; Bano et al., 2018). The increasing trend of conversion
of agricultural lands into urban areas is currently one of the
dominant patterns of land use change in the valley of Kashmir
(Rashid and Romshoo, 2013; Rashid et al., 2017b). This pattern
of land use change has the potential to alter the composition and
functional processes of wetlands by changing the hydrological
regimes and sedimentation processes besides the flux of nutrient
materials. The ecological consequences of agricultural runoff and
municipal wastewater discharges have resulted into widespread
eutrophication (Khan and Ansar, 2005; Badar et al., 2013a). The
conversion of forested and agricultural areas into built up areas
has impaired the water quality (Rather et al., 2016) that has led to
the extirpation of local populations of aquatic species. As a result,
many freshwater wetlands have altogether vanished or are facing
severe anthropogenic pressures. The harmful social, financial,
and ecological impacts of declining biodiversity and degrading
water quality are a matter of concern (Verma et al., 2001; Bassi
et al., 2014). Most of these wetlands used to act as buffers
soaking flood waters but the encroachment and infrastructure
development within these wetlands has reduced their water
holding capacity, increasing the vulnerability of people toward
flooding (Romshoo et al., 2017). The central business hub of
Srinagar, the capital city, is often affected during a normal
precipitation event as the drainage channels that used to drain
out storm water runoff have mostly been taken over by concrete
surfaces (Rashid and Naseem, 2008). The changes in the spatial
extent of lakes and wetlands in Srinagar are presented in Table 1.
As a result of unplanned urbanization, encroachments, and
population pressures, nearly 91.2 km2of wetland area has been
lost between 1911 and 2004 (Rashid and Naseem, 2008).
Anchar Lake
Anchar is a semiurban, single basin lake situated between 3407-
3410N latitudes and 7446-7448E longitudes at an altitude
of 1,583 m above mean sea level (a.m.s.l.). The lake is situated
about 14 km from Srinagar city on the northwestern part. The
lake covered an area of 19.54 km2during 1893–1894 (Lawrence,
1895). Since then, the area of the lake declined substantially
to 6.5 km2(Jeelani and Kaur, 2012). The current area of the
lake is 4.26 km2(Sushil et al., 2014; Fazili et al., 2017). The
water supply of Anchar Lake is maintained by Sindh, a tributary
stream of Jhelum and Achan Nallah in addition to springs
along the vicinity of lake. The lake has a vast catchment area
that comprised a mixture of residential, forest, agricultural,
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Dar et al. Wetland Dynamics in Srinagar Kashmir
FIGURE 2 | Location of major wetlands in the Srinagar city and its vicinity.
TABLE 1 | Changes in the spatial extent of lakes and wetlands of Srinagar
between 1911 and 2004 (Source: Rashid and Naseem, 2008).
S. No. Class name Area (km2)
1991 2004
1 Open water surface 40.00 30.65
2 Wetland/marshy area 134.25 64.07
3 Built-up land 17.45 107.91
4 Others 505.05 494.13
Total 696.77 696.77
and horticultural land (Jeelani and Kaur, 2012; Bhat et al.,
2013). The last few decades have resulted in the decline of the
water quality of the lake (Farooq et al., 2018;Table 2). The
main causes of degradation of Anchar Lake are anthropogenic
activities, encroachments, sewage, and dumping of domestic
wastes including polythene, clothes, plastic bottles, and effluents
from hospitals and wastewater treatment plants (Najar and Khan,
2012; Bhat et al., 2013; Fazili et al., 2017).
TABLE 2 | Long-term water quality changes in Anchar Lake (Source: Kaul, 1977;
Kaul et al., 1978; Farooq et al., 2018).
Parameter 1970–1972 1975–1976 2018
pH 7.4–9.6 7.5–9.5 7.2–8.3
Dissolved oxygen (mg L1) 6.88–12.32 4.2–10.85 3.5–6.5
Conductivity (µS cm1) 132–385 388–555 200–475
Total alkalinity (mg L1) 53–80 75–130 100–399
Ca (mg L1) 16–30 22–24 48.5–74.5
Mg (mg L1) 10–14 9–13 5.3–9.9
PO4-P (µg L1) 9–25 12–29 182–698
NO3-N (µg L1) 90–57 95–580 558–641
NH4-N (µg L1) 70–85 5–18 231–381
Total P (µg L1) - 92–666 550–910
Cl (mg L1) 8–10 - 23.5–42
Dal Lake
Dal is an urban lake, situated between 345-346N latitude
and 748-749E longitude at an altitude of 1,584 m a.m.s.l. The
lake has been formed due to fluviatile activity of river Jhelum
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Dar et al. Wetland Dynamics in Srinagar Kashmir
TABLE 3 | Land system changes within Dal lake from 1859 to 2013 (Source: Rashid et al., 2017a).
Class name Area (km2)
1859 1903 1962 1972 1979 1992 2001 2010 2013
Aquatic vegetation 2.91 1.35 3.85 8.23 9.42 7.75 8.75 10.40 8.64
Builtup 0.05 0.06 0.84 0.68 0.80 1.83 2.10 2.03 2.02
Floating gardens 0.78 0.82 5.66 1.1288 1.39 1.36 2.52 2.70 2.89
Marshy land 1.49 1.44
Plantation 6.02 3.99 3.63 3.16
Water 20.59 23.98 13.84 13.19 12.41 13.10 10.68 8.91 10.50
Total 31.84 31.64 27.82 26.40 24.02 24.04 24.04 24.04 24.04
(Rather, 2012) and is fed by Dagwan stream (Sabha et al., 2019).
The lake is under high stress due to anthropogenic influences
(Badar et al., 2013b; Khanday et al., 2018). During 1200 A.D.,
the extent of Dal Lake was about 75 km2(Wani et al., 2013).
The lake covered an area of 32 km2in 1859 and has shrunk to
24 km2(including the lake interiors) mainly due to the expansion
of settlement areas and proliferation of settlements (Rashid et al.,
2017a). The lake was abundantly supporting sensitive aquatic
macrophytes including Eurayle ferox (Lawrence, 1895; Mukerjee,
1921) and Chara sp. (Mukerjee, 1921), but as the pollution and
eutrophication of the lake continued, the species were pressed
to extinction from the lake (Kak, 2010). While it is believed
that boatmen (locally known as Ha’enz) are the main culprits
responsible for changing land use and land cover of the lake
(Fazal and Amin, 2012), there are policy failures that have led to
the majority of the lake area being highly deteriorated. The land
use patterns and land cover of the lake are presently composed
of open water (10.5 km2), aquatic vegetation (8.64 km2), floating
gardens (2.89 km2), and settlements (2.02 km2) (Rashid et al.,
2017a). The historical changes in the land system of the Dal Lake
are shown in Table 3.
During the last 50 years, the rapid increase in houseboats,
population pressure, encroachment, urbanization, pollution, and
sewage has resulted in the decline of the quality of lake water
(Amin et al., 2014). About 1,200 houseboats (Fazal and Amin,
2012) present in the lake are a major source of untreated sewage
and pollution to the lake (Tanveer et al., 2017). The historical
water quality changes in Dal Lake are reflected in Table 4.
Brari Nambal
Brari Nambal is a marshy lagoon situated between 340512.88′′N
and 744850′′E in Srinagar city. It is connected to the Dal Lake
via a channel on the eastern side. Previously, there was an outlet
channel known as Nallah Mar/Mar canal that used to provide
navigability to Dal Lake to Anchar Lake via Khushalsar (Tantray
and Singh, 2017). In addition, the Mar canal used to take the
excess water from Brari Nambal to Khushalsar Lake. However,
the channel was filled and converted into a motorable road during
the 1970s (Wani et al., 2014), which resulted into the alteration
of the hydrology (Figure 3). Brari Nambal has a narrow outlet
on the western side and drains into river Jhelum through an
underground channel. In 1971, Brari Nambal covered an area
TABLE 4 | Water quality changes in Dal ecosystem (Source: Trisal, 1977; Abubakr
and Kundangar, 2009; Khanday et al., 2018).
Parameter 1974–1976 1985 1996–1997 2006–2007 2018
Dissolved oxygen
(mg L1)
10.25 8.7 8.6 6.8 7.07
Total alkalinity (mg
L1)
69.5 85.6 104 115 101.75
Nitrate nitrogen
(µg L1)
481 483 272 539 400
Ammoniacal
nitrogen (µg L1)
23.6 37.0 362 438 40
Ortho phosphate
phosphorous (µg
L1)
65.5 80.5 135 93 40
Total phosphorus
(µg L1)
187.8 211.5 768 615 200
Total dissolved
solids (mg L1)
30.2 32.2 119.8 20
of 1 km2(water body0.28 km2and Marshy area0.72 km2)
which reduced to 0.77 km2by 2002 (water body0.21 km2and
marsh0.56 km2) (Fazal and Amin, 2011).
The population pressure, pollution, encroachments, and
urbanization have led to great stress on the wetland, thereby
deteriorating the water quality to the verge of extinction. Most
of the sewage generated in the vicinity is treated at a sewage
treatment plant constructed on the southern area of the wetland.
The outflows from the sewage treatment plant have become
a major source of pollution and nutrients to the wetland.
The sewage treatment plant has failed in its operation as per
prescribed norms; as a consequence, it discharges partially treated
sewage, thereby turning the wetland into a gutter (Mukhtar et al.,
2014).
Gilsar and Khushalsar Lakes
Gilsar and Khushalsar are twin lakes in highly deteriorated
condition located toward the northwest of Srinagar city. The lakes
receive waters from the Nigeen basin of Dal Lake via a water
channel—Nallah Amir Khan (Nissa and Bhat, 2016). The total
area of the lake is 1.06 km2, and the average depth of the lake is
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Dar et al. Wetland Dynamics in Srinagar Kashmir
FIGURE 3 | Filling up of Mar Canal as seen from earth observation data (A,B) Declassified CORONA spy images showing Mar canal in 1965. Red Line in (B) indicates
Mar canal. (C) Road built by filling up the Mar Canal. Red dot indicates Brari Nambal.
3.6 m. The lakes have been encroached upon at many places with
illegal construction and landfilling (Chowdhury, 2017). These
lakes receive sewage inputs estimated about 465 million liters per
day (MLD) from the catchment containing 2 metric tons (MT)
of phosphorus and 1.71 MT of nitrogen (Kundangar, 2002) that
has resulted into the proliferated growth of aquatic weeds and
subsequent degradation of water quality.
Hokersar Wetland
Hokersar is the queen of the wetlands of Kashmir valley situated
between 3406N latitude and 7405E longitude having an
altitude of 1,580 m a.m.s.l. in the northern part of Doodhganga
catchment, 10 km west of Srinagar city. The water supply of
Hokersar wetland is maintained by the Doodhganga stream on
the eastern side and by the Sukhnag stream on the western
side. The depth of the wetland varies from a maximum of
2.5 m to a minimum of 0.7 m during spring and autumn,
respectively. Hokersar is a game reserve and habitat for about 2
million species of migratory birds of Europe, Siberia, and Central
Asia. The marshland supports various ecological and economic
services, which include fisheries, food products, freshwater, and
purification of water, and regulates global climate (Davis, 1993;
Romshoo and Rashid, 2014). The wetland supports a broad
range of hydrological functions, for example, regulation of floods,
recharge of groundwater, control stream flow (Joshi et al.,
2002), and carbon sequestration (Romshoo and Rashid, 2014).
In this context, the wetland was designated as a Ramsar site
in November 2005. Due to increased human intervention and
changing natural processes (Joshi et al., 2002), the area of the
wetland has declined from 18.75 km2in 1969 to 13.00 km2in
2008 (Romshoo and Rashid, 2014;Table 5). This wetland has
lost 5.75 km2of area during the last four decades (Romshoo and
Rashid, 2014). During the last two to three decades, macrophytic
species like Acorus calamus,Euryale ferox, and Nelumbo nucifera
within the wetland had disappeared (Khan et al., 2004). The
wetland is now choked by invasive species like Azolla spp.,
Salvinia natans, and Menynanthese spp. (Khan et al., 2004;
Bano et al., 2018). The increased sillt load from the catchment
area due to deforestation of higher reaches is the possible
cause for the disappearance of the species and depletion of
water depth, which has been reported to have reduced from
1.12 m (Pandit, 1980) to 0.63 m (Rather and Pandit, 2002). It
is also pertinent to mention that during the last few decades,
the water quality of the wetland has deteriorated (Shah et al.,
2019) severely (Table 6), mainly attributed to urbanization in the
vicinity (Romshoo et al., 2011).
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Dar et al. Wetland Dynamics in Srinagar Kashmir
TABLE 5 | Area covered by different land use land cover types from 1992 to 2008
within Hokersar wetland (Source: Romshoo and Rashid, 2014).
Class
name
Area
1992
(km2)
Area
2001
(km2)
Area
2005
(km2)
Area
2008
(km2)
Change from
1992 to 2008
(km2)
% Change
Agriculture 4.26 3.69 3.23 4.95 0.69 3.69
Aquatic
vegetation
2.5 3.48 4.56 4.46 1.96 10.73
Built up 0.01 0.05 0.12 0.11 0.1 0.55
Fallow 0.88 0.21 0.27 0.48 0.4 2.22
Marshy 7.74 8.06 7.27 5.62 2.12 11.86
Open water 0.85 0.43 0.31 0.36 0.49 2.72
Plantation 1.82 2.18 2.32 2.16 0.34 1.83
Road 0.03 0.03 0.03 0.03 0 0
TABLE 6 | Range value of various chemical parameters of Hokersar wetland
(Source: Kaul et al., 1978; Kaul and Trisal, 1985; Shah et al., 2019).
Parameter 1978 2012–2013
Oxygen (mg L1) 3.2–12 2.4–10.1
pH 7.2–9.0 7.1–8.2
Alkalinity (mg L1) 85–256 91.3–254.7
Conductivity (µS cm1) 216–348 210–381
Cl (mg L1) 0.0–79.0 10.3–39.3
Dissolved inorganic phosphate phosphorus (µg L1) 19.0–47 -
Total phosphate phosphorus (µg L1) 11.2–306 134–390
NO3-N (µg L1) 104–327 226.3–631.3
NH4-N (µg L1) 3.0–10.0 16.7–242.3
SIO2(mg L1) 3.0–9.0 -
Ca (mg L1) 24–61 44.2–107.2
Mg (mg L1) 11.0–18.0 6.2–28.1
BRIEF INVENTORY ON SERVICES
PROVIDED BY WETLANDS
Having only a coverage of 0.6% of the Earth’s surface,
wetlands supply a tremendous proportion of ecosystem services
such as recreational amenities, flood control, storm buffering,
biodiversity, climate regulation, and socio-cultural values. They
are important habitats for biodiversity contributing to primary
productivity and home to many important migratory birds. Thus,
wetlands have a diverse fauna with a relatively large number
of endemic species. Goods and services derived from wetlands
include livestock and cultivation, fisheries, fiber for construction
and handicraft production, fuel wood, hunting for water fowl and
other wildlife, aesthetic value of wetlands, storm buffering, flood
water storage and stream flow regulation, water flow, sediment
and nutrient cycling—water quality improvements, erosion
control, carbon sequestration—climate change and mitigation,
and cultural knowledge and traditions (Eftec, 2005). Wetlands
are believed to have distinctive ecological features, which provide
various goods and services to mankind. They constitute a natural
resource of great economic, scientific, cultural, and recreational
TABLE 7 | Ecological and socio-economic importance of wetlands.
Services Brief description
Regulating
Air quality
regulation
The wetland ecosystems have the ability to maintain air
quality by extracting aerosols and chemical compounds from
the atmosphere.
Climate regulation Wetlands through their biologically mediated processes
stabilize the micro-climate of the region, however at global
scale; they moderate climate vagaries through the land cover
and other processes.
Hydrological
regimes
Wetlands regulate hydrological cycle and regulate water
regime through ground water recharge, evapotranspiration,
and by capturing and gradually releasing the water.
Pollution
abatement and
detoxification
Wetlands drastically reduce the nutrient input from through
flowing surface and sub-surface run-off. The biotic and
abiotic factors in the wetlands lead to the detoxification of the
pollutants and xenic compounds carried into the ecosystem.
Erosion control Wetland vegetation and biota reduce the erosion of soil
through sediment binding and reducing current velocity.
Natural hazard
mitigation
Wetlands help to lessen the negative impact of flooding by
soaking up the water and reducing the speed at which flood
water flows.
Biological
regulation
Wetlands regulate population structure of the ecosystem
through trophic relation.
Provisioning
Food Production of edible plants like Nelumbo nucefera and
animals like fish (Schizothorax sp., Cyprinus sp.).
Fresh water The biotic and abiotic processes taking place in the wetland
ecosystem enhances water quality. Wetlands have vast ability
to meet municipal water supply in the neighboring areas.
Fuel and fiber Wetlands are home to a number of species or abiotic
components with potential use for fuel or raw material.
Biochemical
products and
medicinal
resources
Wetlands act as huge reservoirs of potentially beneficial
chemical compounds having tremendous medicinal and
cosmetic properties.
Genetic materials Wetlands represent areas of high biological diversity and
support gene pools of the most diverse assemblages of a
wide variety of flora and fauna.
Ornamental
species
Wetlands provide vital habitat for many species and other
abiotic resources with Ornamental value.
Socio-economic
Cultural heritage
and identity
Wetlands symbolize the culturally significant landscapes by
creating the sense of belongingness for certain features and
species it beholds.
Tourism and
recreational
Wetlands provide panoramic views of landscapes having
humongous recreational potential for tourism.
Aesthetic The aesthetics provided by the wetlands is based on
greenness, tranquility, and diversity.
value. Wetland characteristics such as biodiversity, abiotic
components, and ecological processes regulate a large number
of functions that are first transformed into a list of services
that can then be measured in appropriate units (biophysical or
otherwise) and later used for economic valuation. Ecosystem
functions represent the potential for benefits that may or may not
be used directly by humans. Usually, the same function is linked
to two or more ecosystem services. Some of the vital functions of
the wetlands are listed in Table 7.
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Dar et al. Wetland Dynamics in Srinagar Kashmir
TABLE 8 | Threats perceived by wetlands of Srinagar city.
S. No. Threats Perceived impacts
1. Floating gardens Construction of floating gardens is a major threat to the lakes and wetlands of Srinagar city. This practice has resulted in conversion
of large areas of open water into floating islands. The impact of these floating gardens is very grave, and unless this practice is
stopped, the wetlands would be under a severe threat.
1. Willow plantations The creation of a network of willow plantations and populus trees within the wetlands (Anchar, Brari Nambal, Dal, Hokersar, Gilsar,
and Khushalsar) is a serious threat to wetland ecology. These plantations have obstructed natural flow of drainage, causing
deleterious morphological, hydrological, and ecological changes to wetlands.
2. Houseboats The direct discharge of untreated sewage from some 1,200 houseboats located in Dal lake is a growing threat to the lake
ecosystem. This has resulted into deterioration of water quality, prolific growth of aquatic macrophytes, and pollution of the lake
(Parvez and Bhat, 2014).
3. Mechanical
machines/harvestors
The mechanical dredgers and de-wedeers used in wetlands of Srinagar City (Dal lake, Brari Nambal) for removal of sediments and
aquatic macrophytes has resulted into loss of species of fish, macro-invertebrates, zooplankton, and other biologically important
organisms from the wetlands (Ali, 2014).
4. Sewage treatment
plants (STPs)
Pollutant loads from point sources (STPs) constructed along the banks of Dal lake and Brari Nambal has become the main source of
pollution for these water bodies.
The STPs have failed to operate as per prescribed norms resulting into increased nutrient loadings mostly nitrogen and phosphorus,
organic matter, metals, pathogen, nutrients, and supplementary water pollutants to the wetlands (Mukhtar et al., 2014).
5. Hospital effluents The effluents discharged from SKIMS into Anchar lake has resulted into increased nutrient concentrations and toxic compounds into
lake ecosystem that are very harmful for lake ecology and sometimes very toxic for fish and other aquatic biodiversity (Bashir et al.,
2017; Gudoo et al., 2017).
6. Red tide The unprecedented occurrence and frequent seasonal recurrence of red tide in lakes and wetlands of Srinagar city constitutes a
new environmental threat to the aesthetics and biological diversity of wetlands. The occurrence of red tide is due to ingress of
untreated sewage from nearby residential areas to lakes and wetlands of Kashmir valley (Khan, 2000).
7. Urban sprawl Unplanned urbanization in the vicinity of wetlands in Srinagar is the biggest threat and an important cause for the reduction of
wetland extent (Kuchay and Bhat, 2014; Romshoo and Rashid, 2014).
8. Hydrological alterations Hydrological changes including alterations in inflows and hydrological makeup by surface water extraction, water diversions, and
stream channelization for a variety of human uses.
9. Climate change in
Himalayas
Recession of glaciers in Himalayas and changes in precipitation have a significant impact on wetlands and their associated species.
Anticipated changes in regional climate could be one of the main drivers besides anthropogenic factors for loss of wetlands in
Kashmir region given the depleting streamflow scenario as observed across Kashmir valley (Rashid et al., 2015; Zaz et al., 2019).
10. Exotic species Introduction of exotic species either deliberately or naturally into lakes and wetlands of Srinagar city has resulted into changes in
wetland ecology, biodiversity, land uses, and water quality. For example, exotic fish species Cyprinus carpio introduced in Dal lake
have eliminated the native Schizothorax sp. from Dal lake.
11. Siltation and erosion Siltation and erosion of sediments from the catchment areas is a major threat to the wetlands of the city. These result in loss in water
spread area of wetlands.
12. Roads Constructions of roads within Dal and Khushalsar have not only fragmented these water bodies into sub-basins but also impacted
the hydrology.
THREATS TO WETLANDS
Among the freshwater ecosystems, wetlands are the most widely
used and are heavily exploited for sustainability and livelihood
(Molur et al., 2011). The main threats to wetlands in Srinagar
city are attributed to anthropogenic pressures that include
urbanization (Farooq and Muslim, 2014), land use changes (Fazal
and Amin, 2011), and large-scale encroachments (Wani and
Khairkar, 2011; Kuchay and Bhat, 2014) in the catchment as well
as in the wetlands itself (Rather et al., 2016). Besides, natural
siltation associated with the anthropogenic siltation brought
about by deforestation in the catchment areas has also been an
important factor resulting in the loss of wetlands (Pandit and
Qadri, 1990; Pandit, 1991; Shah et al., 2017; Amin and Romshoo,
2019). Another important driver of the loss of wetlands comes in
the form of problems relating to drainage (Romshoo et al., 2017;
Alam et al., 2018). The huge inflow of sewage from the catchment
areas into the water bodies has resulted in excessive macrophytic
growth (Dar et al., 2014). The main causes of wetland degradation
in Srinagar are summarized in Table 8.
MANAGEMENT OF WETLANDS
In Srinagar, wetland ecosystems are continuously seen as isolated
systems and hardly figure in any management plans. The
principal responsibility for management of wetland ecosystems
in Srinagar is with the Lakes and Waterways Development
Authority (LAWDA), Srinagar. Although one of the wetlands
in Srinagar—Hokersar—was declared as a Conservation Reserve
by the Jammu and Kashmir Wildlife Protection Act (1978)1
and selected as a Ramsar site under the Ramsar Convention
on wetlands of international importance on 8 November, 2005,
the wetland ecosystems are overlooked in management plans.
A wetland management plan would be imperative for deriving
sustained ecological and socio-economic services from these
important freshwater ecosystems. The wetland management plan
would adhere to various actions for protection, restoration, and
manipulation of wetland ecosystems that provide values and
functioning advocating to their sustainable usage (Walters, 1986).
1http://www.jkdears.com/eers/pdf/J_K_Wildlife_Protection_Act.pdf
Frontiers in Environmental Science | www.frontiersin.org 7January 2020 | Volume 7 | Article 199
Dar et al. Wetland Dynamics in Srinagar Kashmir
The various strategies involved in management process should
aim at:
Reducing the impact of current anthropogenic pressures and
natural processes for long-term protection of wetlands.
Prohibiting any kind of anthropogenic interference in wetland
areas particularly where much of the natural functioning of
wetland ecosystems have already been lost.
Regulating inflows using water quality standards set by
organizations for wetlands for their regular functioning while
deriving monetary benefits in a sustainable way.
Creating barrier or green zones for protection of wetland
ecosystems, restraining detrimental human actions in
the demarcated area of wetland ecosystems for restoring
the wetlands.
Addressing and treating point sources and non-point sources
of pollution in the vicinity and catchments that would improve
the trophic status of wetlands in peril.
Setting up of robust treatment plants (STPs) within the
wetlands and their immediate catchments that would improve
wetland health.
Involvement of local people, colleges, and universities for
regular monitoring of the health of wetlands and establish a
civil society–academia–policy interface that will help in the
better understanding of these ecologically sensitive areas for
formulating effective conservation and restoration efforts.
Workshops and other programs with active participation of
school and university children in the vicinity of wetland
ecosystems on a regular basis so that hands-on education
is imparted to the dwellers and inhabitants for protection
of wetlands.
CONCLUSIONS
Wetlands are biologically most diverse and economically valuable
ecosystems all over the world. They cover about 6% of the surface
of the earth and provide important ecological and economic
services. Srinagar city in the valley of Kashmir has several lakes
and wetlands. These are important as socio-economic assets
and function as absorption basins for flood waters. They help
in the maintenance of biodiversity, purification, and recharge
of groundwater. The wetlands of Srinagar city are degrading
at an alarming rate mainly due to anthropogenic pressures
and climate change. The major threats to wetlands in the
city include pollution, siltation, encroachments, urbanization,
and establishment of floating gardens. Robust management
strategies must be adopted for conservation and protection of
wetland ecosystems to ensure sustainable socio-economic and
ecological benefits.
FUTURE PERSPECTIVES
Wetlands all over the world function as important ecological
assets and contribute largely to the well-being of the people.
Studies have shown that the monetary value of wetland services
far exceeds those provided by terrestrial ecosystems. Nowadays,
there is a growing trend of utilizing constructed wetlands
for treatment of wastewaters and industrial effluents. Due to
encroachments and land use changes, the area of lakes and
wetlands has drastically reduced during the last few decades.
Therefore, the future of lakes and wetlands seems to be at stake,
which would not only impact socio-economy but also increase
the vulnerability of people to disasters. Despite the regulations
and the presence of wetland management authorities, wetlands
continue to degrade in the Kashmir region. Keeping in view their
ecosystem services, wetlands need to be conserved for future
generations. The wetland management authorities of Srinagar
city need to look into the ecological degradation and the land
conversion going on within and around the wetlands. The areas
that require aggressive management approaches are restricting
the expansion of floating gardens and limiting the growth of
aquatic vegetation. It is these hotspots that are earth-filled and
used for construction of houses. The siltation of wetlands in
Srinagar is another important concern that should be looked into
by the policy-makers so as to restore their original water holding
capacities. This is important for reducing the vulnerability of
population in Srinagar to floods. The effects of mismanagement
of city wetlands will become visible only in a few decades and
the wetland encroachers will bear consequences similar to what
Srinagarites experienced during 2014 mega flood.
AUTHOR CONTRIBUTIONS
ShD, SB, and IR conceived, designed, and drafted this review,
while SaD author helped in screening the relevant literature
besides giving inputs on draft. All authors together at the end gave
final shape to this manuscript.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
The authors express gratitude to Ms. Sheikh Aneaus, Junior
Research Fellow, Department of Earth Sciences (Geoinformatics
Program) for preparing the map showing the wetlands of
Srinagar city. The authors would also like to acknowledge the
comments of three reviewers whose inputs helped in improving
the structure and quality of the manuscript. Thanks are also
due to the Associate Editor, Dr. Micheal M. Douglas, for timely
processing of the manuscript.
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Conflict of Interest: The authors declare that the research was conducted in the
absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a
potential conflict of interest.
Copyright © 2020 Dar, Bhat, Rashid and Dar. This is an open-access article
distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY).
The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the
original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original
publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice.
No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these
terms.
Frontiers in Environmental Science | www.frontiersin.org 11 January 2020 | Volume 7 | Article 199
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