Hokarsar Lake Kashmir

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Hokarsar Lake Srinagar

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Location: in Badgam district in the Kashmir Valley, 10 km west of Srinagar, Jammu & Kashmir
Area: 1300 ha
Altitude: 1580m
Biogeographical province: 2.38.12
Wetland type: 14

Description of site: A permanent eutrophic lake, once an oxbow, surrounded by freshwater marshes on the flood-plain of the Jhelum river in the Kashmir Valley. The lake is drained by a channel to the Jhelum river at Sozeth Narbal Village. It is fed by perennial streams, the Doodhganga and Sukhnag, and flood waters. The lake reaches a maximum depth of 2.5 m in spring with snow-melt water, and a minimum of 0.7 m in autumn. The water is very turbid, with little light penetration. The underlying soils are of a silty-clayey-loam type. The pH is greatly affected by the high summer temperatures which accelerate the process of decay of organic matter

Climatic conditions: Sub-mediterranean climate with very warm, relatively dry summers (May to August), and cold, wet winters (October to March) with some precipitation in the form of snow. The average annual rainfall is 550 mm, most of which falls between January and March. Average temperatures range from 7.5°C in winter to 19.8°C in summer

Principal vegetation: Marsh vegetation dominated by Typha angustata, T. laxmanii, Phragmites communis, Eleocharis palustris, and Butomus umbellatus. Traps natans occurs in open-water areas. At least 156 species of phytoplankton have been recorded, with Chlorophyceae predominating. There are many floating gardens in the lake, plantations of Salix albs along the shoreline, and rice paddies in surrounding areas

Land tenure: The lake is state-owned (Government of Jammu & Kashmir); surrounding agricultural land is owned by local villagers

Conservation measures taken: The lake is protected as a game sanctuary by the Department of Wildlife Protection Jammu & Kashmir. Waterfowl hunting is allowed on a controlled basis in winter, and the harvesting of reeds is permitted in summer. Management, to date, has included the construction of bunds and installation of a sluice gate to control water levels

Conservation measures proposed: Various proposals have been made for the management of the lake, including the cutting of weeds, dredging, raising of bunds, diversion of the Doodhganga Flood Channel to reduce siltation, and erection of a perimeter fence. The State Advisory Board has approved a proposal for the reserve be upgraded to Sanctuary status

Land use: Fishing, waterfowl hunting in winter and harvesting of reeds in summer; cattle grazing in and around the marshes, and rice-growing in the surrounding areas

Disturbances and threats: The main threats are increased siltation, eutophication, and the encroachment of agricultural land into the peripheral marshes. Some 400 ha of the lake have already been reclaimed for agricultural purposes, and the paucity of cultiviable land in the region is likely to lead to further reclamation as population pressure mounts. Fertilisers used on nearby agricultural land enter the lake in run-off and accelerate the rate of eutrophication. The lake receives a heavy load of silt from the Doodhganga catchment area, and the expanses of open water are decreasing in size as the lake silts up and the reed-beds expand into the lake

Economic and social values: The lake supports a small fishery and a reed-cutting industry, and provides a source of water for irrigation. The harvesting of waterfowl populations provides a source of protein for local consumers. The lake is of considerable interest for scientific research, and provides opportunities for nature-oriented outdoor recreation such as bird-watching

Fauna: An important wetland for both resident and migratory waterfowl. The lake is particularly important as a wintering area for migratory ducks and as a breeding area for herons, egrets, and rails. Up to 25,000 wintering ducks have been recorded at one time; Fulica atra have also been reported in winter, and up to 3000 Anas querquedula occur on migration. Breeding species include Tachybaptus ruficollis (up to 1000 individuals), Ixobrychus minutus, Nycticorax nycticorax (100), Egretta garzetta (400), Ardea cinerea (500), Rallus aquaticus, Gallinula chloropus (500), and Hydrophasianus chirurgus (100). Pallas’s fish-eagle (Haliaeetus leucoryphus) is resident in the area, and the kingfishers Alcedo atthis, Halcyon smyrnensis, and Ceryle rudis are common

The otter (Lutra lutra) is still fairly common in the lake, and other mammals known to occur in the reserve include Vulpes vulpes and Canis aureus. The lake supports A rich fish fauna, including Cyprinus carpio, Crossocheilus sp., Puntius conchonius, and Gambusia affinis. The zooplankton includes at least 44 species of protozans, 18 rotiferans, and 38 crustaceans (mainly Cladocera and Rhizopoda)

Special floral values: No information

Research and facilities: Biologists from the Department of Botany at the University of Kashmir have conducted a considerable amount of limnological and ecological research at Hokarsar and four other similar lakes in the Kashmir Valley. The research has included studies of the mineral composition, biogeochemical cycling, plankton population, biomass, productivity, trophic sucture,ecology of macrophytes, and feeding ecology of the breeding birds. The Department of Wildlife Protection has also carried out some research at the lake, and has conducted waterfowl counts

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