In addition, haphazard building and road construction on the slopes above the lake have increased sedimentation and affected the groundwater table, causing many springs and streams to go dry
Nepal, the country of the Himalayas, is rich in rivers, lakes and ponds.
Apart from these, there are a large number of streams and waterfalls, which makes Nepal the world's second-richest country in water resources. Among the lakes, Fewa Lake is the second largest lake of Nepal situated in the touristic destination, Pokhara. Fewa Lake is formally known as Baidam Tal.
Fewa Lake is the focal point of travelers visiting Pokhara. It is surrounded by a dense forest which is home to a wide range of birdlife. Many tourists go to the lake for boating, and they find peace in the chirping sounds of the birds that abound in the dense forest.
The lake adjoins the popular touristic place, the Lakeside. At Fewa Lake, one can choose different types of boats –twin boats joined by planks and pedals in the middle, rowboats and wooden sailboats as well as modern fiberglass body sailboats.
The atmosphere, walking down the pathways near the lake, is stupendous.
Tourists spend their quality time at the lakeside. The cool breeze and natural beauty make it even more beautiful. There are nice restaurants and bars alongside the lakeside foot track.
Also, Fewa Lake is the only lake with an island temple, named the Tal Barahi, at its center. Many people go to worship at the temple by boating as it is the only way to reach there.
After reaching the temple by boat, one can see the Peace Stupa situated at the top of the Raniban forest.
Tourists hike to the Stupa through the forest, which offers breathtaking views of the lake and Pokhara city.
The lake is famous for the reflection of the Annapurna range and Fishtail Mountain on its waters.
The sunset view from Fewa Lake is one of the most spectacular views.
Tourists go to Sarangkot for adventurous paragliding over the Fewa Lake, which also gives a beautiful view of the lake with the mountains forming the backdrop. Fewa Lake also provides an irrigation system for the paddy fields.
The water from Fewa Lake's outlet is used to generate electricity.
The Fewa powerhouse is located about 1.5 km from the southern part of Fewa Lake. Lake water also flows to the popular Devis Falls beneath the lake. A part of the lake is also used for commercial caged fishery.
Fewa Lake is also the habitat for various water animals and creatures.
Fewa lakeside is also popular for celebrations like the English New Year Street Festival and Nepali New Year Festival, which are respectively organised by the Restaurant and Bar Association of Nepal, Pokhara and Paschimanchal Hotel Association, Pokhara. With common, social, gutsy and recreational attractions for visitors, the lake has turned into a determinant of the city's prosperity. The lake has given jobs to the local fisherman residing on the west side of the lake, who have lived off fishing since the long past.
The Harpan stream is the principle well-spring of water for the Fewa Lake.
Andheri and Sidhane are the two primary wellsprings of Harpan.
The lake view used to be amazing, but these days, unfortunately, the water quality of the lake has degraded because of pollution.Efforts to conserve the shrinking Fewa Lake have not been result-oriented.
The lake is an environmental and socio-economic asset of Nepal and the city of Pokhara. However, the lake area has decreased in the recent decades due to sediment influx.
Preventing the lake from shrinking will require addressing landslide activity and sediment transport in the watershed, as well as urban expansion along the shores. Fewa is fed from the west by the Harpan River and is part of a Ramsar site encompassing the city of Pokhara. Sediment transport into the lake is causing area shrinkage.
Estimates of sedimentation have suggested that the lake would lose majority of its storage capacity within a few years, which will affect recreational boating, irrigation, fishing, and the hydroelectric power plant.
During the rainy season, water hyacinth, an aggressive invasive species, has invaded and polluted Fewa Lake for the last 15 years.
According to the official report, the lake has shrunk a lot, and the average depth of the lake has also decreased.
Experts say that siltation has reduced both the area and the depth of the lake. In addition, haphazard building and road construction on the slopes above the lake have increased sedimentation and affected the groundwater table, causing many springs and streams to go dry.
While there has been a visible decline in the number of bird species, numerous other insects, including butterflies and dragonflies, which depend on clean water sources, have also started disappearing. In the past, the lake was the favorite stopover for migratory birds.
Pollution is yet another major problem facing the lake. It is said that if the concerned agencies fail to come up with a solution soon, the lake may vanish within a few years. The lake is not only a tourist attraction but also a source of livelihood for many. Almost a hundred local fishermen and 800 plus boaters' families depend on it. The Fewa region is also home to several plants and animals and around 200 species of birds.
The inhabitants of Baidam still remember how they used to drink water straight from the lake and how the same water was used to cook food in their kitchen three decades ago when there was no appropriate provision of water supply in the area.
Old residents have seen all the changes. During their lifetime, Pokhara has transformed from a small village to Nepal's major city.
Fewa Lake of Pokhara, one of the major tourist attractions in the country, is bearing the brunt of rapid and uncontrolled urbanisation, with continuing encroachment.
Now, it has become too late to conserve the lake.
Yet the major touristic attraction, Fewa Lake, must be conserved by the concerned at any cost. Otherwise, the lake will become a once upon a time story and may become history soon.
The lake has shrunk a lot, and the average depth of the lake has also decreased.
Experts say that siltation has reduced both the area and the depth of the lake.
A version of this article appears in the print on August 11 2021, of The Himalayan Times.