Chandigarh, February 10
The Chandigarh administration has done a Chewang Norphel. What India’s ‘glacier man’ did for the one lakh population of Leh, the forest department of the UT Administration has done for over 10 lakh city residents.

While he created 10 glaciers in Leh over 10 years, the forest department constructed as many as 193 check dams (water bodies) to desilt and save Sukhna Lake from disappearance.

The lake, which was dying due to heavy inflow of silt, has been saved by the efforts of the forest department, which built and monitored these water bodies in its catchment area, popularly known as the Sukhna Wildlife Sanctuary.

Besides, these have made Chandigarh a model of soil and moisture conservation, and rainwater harvesting in the country.

These form part of the findings of a study conducted by the Society for Promotion and Conservation of Environment (SPACE) at the behest of the Chandigarh administration.

The study, whose findings are yet to be released, reveals that the water bodies built and maintained by the forest department not only gave Sukhna Lake an extended life span but also helped improve the fertility of the soil and other parameters, raised the underground water table, and facilitated thick vegetation, plantation and forestation in the catchment area of the lake.

“More importantly, the moisture retention in soil is contributing vastly towards biodiversity in the Shivalik region”, said Sanjay Kumar, forest-cum-finance secretary, UT administration.

Thanks to these water bodies, intense plantation has been done in the area, converting the entire Shivalik Hills into a thick forest.

“The rate of soil erosion in the catchment area of Sukhna Lake, which was 160 metric ton per hectare per year in 1988, has been bought down to only five metric ton per hectare per year, and no fresh silt is now coming into the lake,” Sanjay Kumar added.

The catchment area of Sukhna Lake was a thick forest replete with flora and fauna around 40 years ago. “The silt started swallowing the artificial 3-km rain-fed lake (1.52 km long and 1.49 km wide). In 1958, its water spread was 230 hectares and average depth around 4.69 metres, but due to heavy siltation, the depth got reduced to two metres in 2004,” said Ishwar Singh, conservator of forests, Chandigarh.

“Up to 1962, around 20 per cent of the lake got silted. And up to 2009, it lost almost 66 per cent of the area and water holding capacity. In 2007, siltation had also reduced its area to only 154 hectares. The survival of the lake was virtually at stake. But now we are able to extend its life span,” said Ishwar Singh.

The administration had launched Rs 73-crore ‘Save Sukhna Lake’ plan and the engineering department was assigned the task of removing the silt.

On the other hand, the forest department constructed 193 silt retention dams in the sanctuary.

These dams, says SPACE study, have not only retained silt but also collected rainwater from the catchment area. These are serving the purpose of “water hole” for the preservation and survival of wildlife.

In addition to the 193 water bodies, there are two in Patiala ki Rao forest, near Dhanas village, two in the botanical garden near Sarangpur village, two behind the lake reserve forest and two in Sukhna choe reserve forest. “All these water bodies, harvesting rainwater from the respective reserve forest area, have helped promote eco-tourism in Chandigarh,” Ishwar Singh added.

Source: Tribune News Service