The Sattal is an interconnected cluster of 7 freshwater lakes and a treasure-trove of biodiversity in the ecologically fragile Nainital cluster. Located at 4,000 feet above sea level, it is right in the middle of the Kumaon hardwood forests. The isolation has for long protected the lake. But human intervention, fragmentation and fire, and the danger of pine tree invasion could soon spell doom for Sattal Lake.
The immediate and most potent threat is human interference in the fragile ecology in which the lake is located. The ‘Beautification’ and ‘Development’ plan of the government could soon destroy the Sattal. There are plans to construct stores, parks, viewpoints, a library, and a parking lot.
The Uttarakhand Tourism website describes the lake in glowing terms as a cluster of pristine lakes in dense mountainous oak forests. But this apt description of the lakes is offset by the acts of the government.
The lake hosts some 525 varieties of birds and a similar number of butterflies. Vulnerable and endangered species like the Red-Headed and the Cinereous Vulture, Pallas’ Fish Eagle, and the Grey-crowned Prinia can be found in the Sattal and the surrounding forests. The lake and the forests are also home to the Atlas moth, the world’s largest.
The lake is immortalized in the great Indian mythologies and has a special meaning for its spiritual importance. One of the mythological characters is the perfect epitome of irrationality that leads humans to sacrifice everything.
Local Efforts The Only Hope For Sattal
Local efforts by individual conservationists and clubs could save the lake. An effort under the initiative of the Sattal Conservation Club, and supported by local residents and environmentalists are at the forefront of the campaign to save the lake from commercialization. There Is No Earth B is another community initiative that has made efforts to build an organic, inclusive, and decentralized action and advocacy group for the climate.
Together they have raised over 32,000 signatures against the destruction of the lake. Their supporting hashtags are trending as #savesattal and #sattal. It is a struggle led and supported by the locals, concerned over the fate of their ecological heritage, and the forces that stand in direct confrontation with sustainability and the fragile ecology.