Nestled near the village of Rikhi, in the picturesque Namal Valley of the Mianwali District in Punjab, Pakistan, lies Namal Lake, a tranquil body of water that has played a vital role in the region’s history and development. This article delves into the rich history of Namal Lake, its significance, and the pressing challenges it faces today.
Historical Significance: Namal Lake owes its existence to the construction of Namal Dam in 1913 by British engineers. Its creation aimed to address the pressing issues of irrigation and drinking water scarcity in the region. The dam effectively formed a sizable lake, which, with normal rainfall, stands at an elevation of R.L. 1,160, about 20 feet below the crest of the weir. During average seasons, it can hold an impressive 630 million cubic feet of water, with a maximum capacity of 2,100 million cubic feet.
Namal Canal: To further enhance irrigation capabilities, the Namal Canal was opened in December 1913. This canal receives water from the Namal Lake through the dam and channels it to lands in the Civil Station of Mianwali. The canal’s inclusion under schedule-1 of the Minor Canals Act of 1905 by the Punjab Government highlights its historical significance in regional agriculture.
Challenges Faced: Despite its historical importance, Namal Lake is currently grappling with several challenges:
- Reduced Utility: Over time, the construction of the Thal Canal and the installation of tube wells have diminished the lake’s role in supplying water for irrigation and drinking.
- Maintenance Issues: The gates of Namal Dam require regular repairs by the irrigation department. However, these repairs are often carried out with minimal enthusiasm.
- Water Scarcity: In a rare occurrence, the lake dried up recently due to drought-like conditions, the first such event in a century, underscoring the severity of water scarcity issues in the region.
- Shrinkage: A significant decrease in the lake’s surface area, from its original 5.5 square kilometers to 2.2 square kilometers in 2022, has raised concerns. This alarming 57% shrinkage is primarily attributed to silt accumulation from the Golar, Trappi, Rikhi, and Namal catchment areas.
- Siltation: The continuous inflow of silt into the lake has raised its surface level by 45 feet over the past century. This silt and debris not only affect the functioning of Namal Dam’s gates but also disrupt the natural discharge channels of the lake, causing a loss of water.
Conclusion: Namal Lake, born out of the Namal Dam’s construction, has witnessed a century of transformation and challenges. While it once served as a lifeline for irrigation and drinking water needs, it now faces a precarious future due to reduced utility, siltation, and a shrinking surface area. Urgent restoration and management efforts are necessary to revive this invaluable water resource and preserve its historical significance for generations to come. Efforts must be made to strike a balance between modern agricultural needs and the conservation of this priceless natural asset.