Chandigarh, August 31
There is some good news for Sukhna aficionados. The lake, which had virtually been dying, has been almost cleared of the weeds and undergrowth that were choking it. Until a month ago weeds had covered almost 70 per cent of its surface, posing a threat to marine life.

The credit of saving the lake goes to a group of illiterate but skilled workers hailing from Raja Ka Tajpur, a remote village in Uttar Pradesh.

“Clearing weeds from water bodies has been the family vocation for generations and the skill has been passed down by our elders,” said Shamsheed Ahmad, who heads the group. He also claimed they had cleared the lake around the Jal Mahal in Jaipur, Jaisamand lake in Udaipur and Dorrala in Kurukshetra, besides many ponds and reservoirs in Haryana, Punjab and UP.

However, clearing Sukhna Lake presented a different challenge. “The weeds here were unique and of the kind we hadn’t seen before. Not only were they thorny but also caused allergy and skin infections. Many of our workers received cuts and bruises while pulling out the wild growth,” Bahar Alam, a worker in the group, quipped.

The weed with which the lake was infected is commonly known as ‘chara’ or musk grass, which is generally found in Brazil.

According to UT administration officials, the work to clear the lake of weeds and undergrowth has been contracted at a rate of Rs 6.25 per square feet. The cost of transporting and dumping the extracted vegetation is extra. Given the area to be cleared the workers expect to earn several lakhs of rupees in the exercise. The administration had hired the group about six months ago for this difficult task.

Shamsheed said special nets were used to pull out the weeds from the water.

“Hundreds of quintals of weeds have been removed from the lake so far. About 80 workers have been toiling daily, removing 50 to 60 trolley loads every day. It took around four months to clear the lake, though some work still remains,” remarked Shahid Khan, another worker.

Only a few weeks before the lake waters virtually resembled a lush green playground because of the presence of weeds on the surface.

With the lake cleared to a large extent, rowers are also back in the waters for their practice sessions. For the past few months they had been unable to cast their sails for fear of running aground in dangerously shallow waters or getting entangled in weeds.

“Now we find hardly any weeds in the lake during our practice sessions,” said some budding rowers and canoeists who are now honing their skills for participating in various competitions.

Shamsheed said he and other members of his group would remain here till the weeds were completely removed from the water body. “We’re also checking whether the weeds are growing again or not,” he added.

Source: Akash Ghai Tribune News Service