Dal Lake ASI-38

Riparian Nation(s) India
Surface Area 21 km2 Mean Depth Volume 0.00983 km3
Shoreline Catchment Area 316 km2 Residence Time
Frozen Period Jan Mixing Type Polymictic Morphogenesis/Dam
Related Info/Site


Dal is a Himalayan urban lake which is mainly used for tourism. Fishery is of secondary importance. The lake comprises five basins and a myriad of inter- connecting channels. It is one of the most beautiful lakes of India and the second largest lake in the State of Jammu and Kashmir. The lake is surrounded by mountains on its three sides. A large number of gardens and orchards have been laid along the shores. Dal Lake is unique in having hundreds of house boats which afford an opportunity to tourists to reside on the lake in an atmosphere of peace and tranquility. The boats are served by Shikaras which more or less resemble the gondolas of Venice but are smaller in size and are tastefully decorated. Besides the Moghul monuments the campus of the University of Kashmir is also located along the shores of the lake. Overlooking the lake are two hillocks which house the famous temples of Shankaracharya and Hari Parbat. A perennial inflow channel enters the lake from the north and supplies about 80% of the water. Towards the southwest side an outflow channel drains the lake water into a tributary of the River Jhelum. Parallel to this exit is a stone-lined canal which connects the lake with the tributary. This channel is used for movement of boats in and out of the lake and prevents inundation of floating gardens during high floods.

The famous Moghul gardens around the lake have been laid during 16-17th century and their number was about five hundred but now only a few of these have survived. The origin of the lake has remained unresolved. It is believed by some geologists that the Dal Lake is the remnant of a Pleistocene oligotrophic lake which once covered the entire valley of Kashmir. There are other geologists who believe Dal to be a flood plain lake.

The lake water is being used for irrigation of vegetable fields which have grown in number and extent during recent years. The present maximum depth of the lake is 6 m (Nagin basin). Many aquatic plants growing in the lake are used as food, fodder and compost.

The water quality of Dal Lake has deteriorated considerably in the last two decades. Large peripheral areas have been reclaimed and converted into floating gardens. With the increase in the tourist influx a large number of residential buildings, restaurants and hotels have come up along the lake front. The number of house boats has also been increasing at an alarming rate. As a result of rapid and unplanned urbanization, large quantities of raw sewage are discharged in the lake water, which might pose health problems in the near future.

The main environmental issues are excessive weed growth, reduction in water clarity, enrichment of waters and high microbial activity. A Dal Development Project was formulated in 1978 and the State Government of Jammu and Kashmir adopted it with some modifications. The main thrust of the project is to improve the lake environment by using both physical and biological approaches. The work is in progress (Q).

Photo of Dal Lake
Photo: D. P. Zutshi