To increase the life span of Phewa Lake in Pokhara, the local authorities concerned are considering roping in the locals to effectively step up conservation efforts of the famed lake.

The Water Resources and Irrigation Development Division Office, Kaski, has started reducing the water level of the freshwater lake to excavate heaps of soil and silt that have accumulated in the lake's basin, leaving it in a sorry state for many years now.

Repair of the 46-feet long dam around the lake is under way 42 years after its construction. The seasonal streams merging with the lake have been dumping silt, soil and garbage into it, further deteriorating its condition.

There are nine lake clusters in Pokhara that were nominated as the 10th Ramsar site of Nepal in 2016. Phewa Lake is one among them and has remained one of the major natural landmarks in Pokhara, which is also known as the 'Lake City'.

The lake, once-upon-a-time, was so clean that it was known to reflect the magnificent image of Mt Machhapuchhare on its pristine water.

The lake which sprawls across 10,000 ropani, as per the latest report submitted to Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, has been shrinking due to rapid urbanisation, unchecked encroachment and natural erosion. The shrinking lake has lately been a grave cause of concern among locals and local authorities alike.

Man Bahadur GC, mayor of Pokhara Metropolitan City, said they would take decisions on the excavation of the lake's soil, silt and mud after collecting recommendations from experts. "Currently, we have lowered the water level in the lake to make new dams and repair the old one. The height of silt, mud and soil deposited into the lake stood at 9 metres deep. The metropolis has taken this issue very seriously," said Mayor GC.

According to him, it would take at least two months to construct new dams in five places along the lake. "We should not commence excavation drive haphazardly for it could have adverse impact on the amphibians and vegetation in and around the lake," he asserted.

Heritage conservation activist Ram Bahadur Poudel said this season was the right time to dig the mud, soil and silt dumped into the lake and breathe a fresh life into the dying lake. "Phewa Lake is the jewel of Pokhara. We should excavate the soil inside it to prolong its lifespan," he opined. He said the excavation drive should be conducted with the participation of local communities.

Pokhara Tourism Council's President Gopi Bahadur Bhattarai also echoed Poudel's voice.

Bhattarai said, "We are ready to coordinate with government agencies for excavation. We also welcome the proposal to rope in the local community for the same."

Anup Gurung, chief of Lake Conservation and Development Authority, seconded the opinion of Poudel and Bhattarai. According to Gurung, this is the right time for managing solid waste in the lake and excavating silt, soil and mud deposited in it. He pressed for a coordinated effort among experts, local authorities and the locals for the same.

Rajan Subedi of Institute of Forestry, Pokhara, suggested considering eco-friendly ways and means of excavation which would have less adverse impact on aquatic life in the lake. According to him, if the authority concerned could extract at least two to four metres of soil from the lake at present, it could lengthen its lifespan by a few more years.

Gandaki Province Chief Minister Prithivi Subba argued that one should not be sentimental but rather rational when it comes to conserving and managing the lake. For conservation of natural heritage and beautification of the lake, he pointed out the need to consider experts' recommendations and move ahead with a sustainable development plan.

A version of this article appears in the print on February 15, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.