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Citizen-led group organises walk to explore Delhi's Najafgarh Jheel 

Delhi-NCR citizens join a walk at Najafgarh lake, a refuge to avian species, to raise awareness about the degrading waterbody.

Published: 25th October 2021 05:32 AM  |   Last Updated: 25th October 2021 05:32 AM   |  A+A-

Najafgarh Jheel 

Najafgarh Jheel 

Express News Service

Donning caps, sporting comfortable shoes, and holding water bottles filled to the brim, a group of nature enthusiasts assembled near the Capital’s Dwarka Sector 12 Metro Station early on a Sunday, October 24, 2021, geared up to attend a walk.

Organised by Knowing Loving Delhi Better (KLoDB), a citizen-led group, around 25 people were primed to explore the second largest water body in Delhi, the Najafgarh Jheel (lake), often written off by the locals as the Najafgarh naala (drain). 

Led by Ritu Rao, a PhD scholar at TERI School of Advanced Studies, this nature walk was an attempt to raise awareness about the rampant deterioration of the lake. The three-hour long walk was enough to make one realise how human activities impact the ecosystem.

A forgotten wetland
The Najafgarh lake has a rich history and immense ecological significance. However, over the years, extreme negligence—along with other issues such as encroachment and sewage—has relegated it to a stinking, waterlogged drain. Shared by both the Delhi and the Haryana governments, the Najafgarh lake continuously receives sewage input from Gurugram and other surrounding areas of the Capital.

Walk Leader Ritu Rao explains the impact of increasing urbanisation
on the Najafgarh Lake | ANJANI CHADHA

This has resulted in the water turning dirty and acidic, compromising the survival of the lake.Falling within the Central Asian flyway, which is known to be a stopover site for migratory birds, the Najafgarh lake provides refuge to a number of avian species. As noted by the Environment Management Plan (EMP) prepared by the Delhi government, it hosts about 281 bird species, both resident and migratory.

This list also includes various endangered species such as the Siberian crane, pink-headed ducks, among others. Fed by the Sahibi river, the Najafgarh lake was once known to be spread across 220sq km. Now, it has shrunk to a mere 7sq km. However, the biggest threat to the existence of this lake is from real-estate developers who seek to reclaim the lake’s land for construction activities. “This walk is an attempt to educate people about the condition of the Jheel. I’d love to do another walk because citizen awareness is important in such issues. Given the groundwater crisis, we have a very bleak future, especially in the cities of Delhi and Gurugram. There is, thus, no other option but to save this place,” said Rao.

A walk for awareness
KLoDB has been organising similar walks across Delhi-NCR as an attempt to explore and discover the city of Delhi better. Founded in 1996, the group has conducted free walks that are community-driven. “We keep organising various walks across the city. Heritage walks, food walks, shelter walks—we keep devising interesting ways to indulge the citizens,” says Zubair Idrisi, a walk leader with KLoDB. 



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