How Vulnerable Are Wular Lake Fishing Communities vis a vis Non-fishing
Communities in rural Kashmir? Insights and Interventions for Development
Wular Lake, one of the largest wetlands in Asia with 11,277 ha in
Kashmir valley, is a biodiversity-rich Ramsar site supporting about
32,000 rural families involved in harvesting fish, water chestnut, lotus
stem and fodder. With 2914 active fishers, Wular contributes 54% of
Kashmir’s fish catch. Large scale land-use changes and global warming
have led to siltation, shrinkage of lake area and alterations in water
flow regime threatening lake ecology and livelihoods. This study uses a
novel census-based multi-criteria Socio-Economic Vulnerability Index
(SEVI) covering 23 fishing and 115 non-fishing adjacent villages. Except
for Kunas, all fishing villages exhibited ‘low’ (0.21 to 0.40)
vulnerability levels. Interestingly, no significant differences in
vulnerability was found between fishing (23) and non-fishing (115)
villages though, the former showed relatively higher social sensitivity.
A graphical decision matrix based on sensitivity and adaptive capacity
scores provides a snapshot of vulnerability status of each village.
Using SEVI values, drivers - key indicators responsible for high
sensitivity & low adaptive capacity - were identified and village
specific development interventions suggested using Kunas as the
model village for illustration. Improving education levels,
strengthening community and rural infrastructure, and expanding
livelihood options were key short-term strategies for improving
resilience in Kashmir’s Wular region.