Assessment of pollution level in a Himalayan Lake, Kashmir, using geomatics approach

Pollution indices aggregate concentrations of several water quality parameters into a single quantity to indicate the general status of pollution in a region. In this study, a variant of the previous water quality index was used to evaluate the pollution status in the Wular Lake, Kashmir, which is a Ramsar site and wetland of international importance. The index termed as water quality status index (WQSI) is considered as a simple pollution indicator to support management actions in the Wular Lake, Kashmir. WQSI is a valuable and unique rating to depict the overall water quality status and pollution level of the waterbody in a spatial context and is also capable of dealing with those water quality parameters which do not have well-developed standard values. In this study, the water quality of the Wular Lake was investigated in June 2013 for 21 sample locations. The index used in this work is composed of 13 measurable physico-chemical parameters – pH, dissolved oxygen, chemical oxygen demand, biological oxygen demand, alkalinity, hardness, chloride, total dissolved solids, ammonia, iron, nitrite, nitrate and fluoride. The generation of WQSI is based on weighted overlay technique, in which interpolated raster maps were generated for all the 13 water quality parameters and weights are assigned to each and every parameter using analytic hierarchy process technique, considering their status as benefit or cost criteria. Based on the value of WQSI, the whole lake was divided into five zones, comprising least polluted zone (23%), moderately polluted zone (20%), high polluted zone (30%), very high polluted zone (22%) and extremely polluted zone (5%). From this study, it has been found that 60 km2 (77%) of total lake area constitutes the moderate to extremely polluted zone and only 18 km2 (23%) of the total lake area constitutes the least polluted zone, which is in the north-west region of the lake. The study reveals that the world-famous Wular Lake is undergoing the eutrophication process and as a result of which the lake is losing its water holding capacity to deal with the disastrous flood problem in Kashmir region.