A Lake So Near

  • Maninder Dabas / FG
  • India
  • Apr 20, 2012

Water bodies have always been an integral part of human existence on this planet. Be it oceans, rivers, lakes or ponds – each have their own significance; and have been immortalised in thousands of stories/fables over the centuries. Oceans and rivers are often nature’s devastating weapons, that humanity has tasted the wrath of many a time; lakes are a more calm and divine source  of nature’s love and affection. It is widely believed that nothing is more celestial and romantic than lovers on a boat in the middle of a lake, witnessing the setting of the sun behind the neighbouring hills. And probably that’s what Mughal Emperor Shahjahan felt, while boating in the Dal lake, before  defining Kashmir as heaven on earth. 

Haryana, a landlocked State, has for company the land of five rivers Punjab, the eternal Ganga-Yamuna UP – and a desert beauty Rajasthan. It has seen neither any river nor any sea, since the Ice Age. Yet, Haryana has a few lakes that provide its people some joy; and fortunately our own Gurgaon has a handful of them. Damdama, Badkhal and Suraj Kund lakes are the three water bodies in Gurgaon and Faridabad districts, from where people can see the setting sun, and its fading horizons behind the Aravalli hills. Both Badkhal and Suraj Kund have met their cruel and untimely demise. The yhave been sacrificed at the altar of modernisation; and now don’t even have enough water to be called lakes. Damdama, on the other hand, is still alive.     

Damdama is a natural lake, 22 km south-east from Rajiv Chowk. This Lake is spread across a large area of seven kilometres, and is surrounded by the rocky Aravalli mountains. Damdama Lake is a popular destination as a weekend getaway from the NCR. People visit the Lake for day picnics, over-night stay, and corporate team building. “Before the late eighties this area was a jungle, and nobody would come here. Then, the District Administration realised the potential, and Haryana Tourism purchased this piece of land, to make this Resort. The Resort was unveiled by the then Chief Minister of Haryana, Bhajan Lal, in 1991.  The Lake still belongs to the Panchayat. As time progressed, this Lake too became popular; and now it’s one of the most famous one-day trip destinations for the people living in the NCR. This is the biggest natural lake in Haryana; and apart from being a peaceful destination, it has all the facilities – including many adventure sports like rock climbing, boating, camel ride,” says Mahinder Singh, a senior Haryana Tourism official at the Saras Complex. Haryana Tourism has 44 such resorts all across the State.  

A tourist destination

Today’s busy life has made it very difficult for the people to pack their bags for a week-long outing to Simla, Ooty or Manali. Most popular is a one-day trip to some nearby place, where they can enjoy the natural beauty, along with a peaceful yet adventurous environment. And Damdama Lake is the perfect answer for such a quest. “Apart from this government complex, there are six other private resorts that provide overnight stay, along with adventure activities. As far as the crowd is concerned, we receive the maximum number of visitors on weekends, when we see an average of 300-350 people in each resort; whereas this number shrinks to 150-200 people on normal working days. Apart from rooms, restaurant and a bar, we have a Conference Hall for corporates,” explains Singh.

An abode for adventurers 

Adventure sports is gaining momentum in India at a rapid pace; and the new crop of Indians is fascinated by this sport. That is why adventure sports destinations like Rishikesh and Manali are getting tourists in large numbers each year. Damdama too has such facilities, as the Lake fills a depression in the Aravalli hills, which form a striking backdrop to its placid waters. If you love boating, you can enjoy Row Boats, Paddle Boats, and Motor Boats. For adventure activities, you can enjoy rock climbing on the Aravalli hills. “Each resort here has its own adventure sports facility. People come to satiate their hunger for adventure; and we provide them with ample opportunity – along with formidable security. Adventure sport facilities include: Hot Air Ballooning, Para Sailing, Rock Climbing, Cycling, Angling, Trekking and Camping. Obstacle Courses, Team Building Games, and HR Training Programmes can also be organised for big groups; and corporate companies often come here for such activities. You can also play games like Tambola, Chess, Table Tennis, Carrom, Badminton, Volleyball, Cricket.  Bungee jumping also can be organised at an extra cost,” says an employee from a private resort. 

One can enjoy a day trip, or the overnight packages at the Botanix Nature Resort, Dream Island Resort, Waterbank Island Resort, and Seven Folds Resort.

A source of revenue and employment

Damdama Lake has been a great source of revenue for the State, and other private resort owners. It also provides good employment to the locals of Damdama village, who provide their services such as camel rides. “We have thirteen rooms, and on an average we see sixty per cent occupancy. We charge Rs. 1,912 for an AC room for 24 hours. Almost all the resorts here have given their adventure sports facilities to private contractors, and here also locals earn a great deal of money. We also provide package deals of one-day picnic to families and corporate firms, at the rate of Rs. 550 and Rs. 650 per individual – for veg. and non-veg. food respectively. This Picnic Package includes a few sports activities – like Boating, Trekking, Cricket and Badminton,” elaborates Singh. “I live here in Damdama village, and we provide camel ride service. We charge Rs. 30 per person, for a distance of one and half kilometres. Like me, there are several other villagers who earn their livelihood from this Lake. Many have boats, and the resort people have hired them on a contract basis,” says Shanker, a villager.  

Thus spake the visitors

“This is a wonderful place, and I often come here. The reason why I come is the environment; it is very peaceful, and its not far from my house and business in New Delhi. This time I have come alone, but usually I bring my family with me. It’s a perfect place for a day out. Now the water level in the Lake has gone down drastically, but in September and October the Lake remains full – and one can really enjoy boating. I also like the rock climbing adventure being provided by Haryana Tourism, at Hill No-3. In total, I would say a nice place for a hangout,” says Vikrant Rana, a young businessman. And then there are people who come here for peace, and quality time together. Mr and Mrs Sharma are one such couple, “We live in Noida, and we come here twice a year – between September and April. Of course,  this place now has become a little crowded, and the Lake too has lost some of its charm. We have been coming for the last five years. We like the peaceful environment the most, because there is no traffic and other social disturbance here. The hills too are lonely and deserted; and that’s what we like the most,” says Narender Sharma.

The best  season to visit

The best season to visit Damdama lake is from September to April; the Lake is full of water, and one can enjoy the sweet chill in the weather with an evening bonfire on the banks of the Lake,” says  Singh. 


The Grey Areas

a) A drying lake

Haryana is not known for having great tourism spots. Damdama certainly features at the top in a small list. But the lack of care from the Administration is costing this place dearly, as the surface area of the Lake is reducing with each passing year. “This Lake belongs to the Panchayat of Damdama village; and they have sold plots in this land to various people. The resorts you are seeing in the middle of the lake are the result of that trade. People have drawn cemented boundaries, and turned this small plotted area into small resorts; but while doing this they have blocked the flow of water into the lake from the hills, during the monsoon. This is resulting in the constant decrease in the surface area of the lake. If this isn’t stopped, we soon will see Damdama turning into a Badkhal – with no water in it,” says a senior Haryana Tourism official.  

b) No helping hand from the State

Damdama is the biggest natural water lake in Haryana. It provides the largest share in the revenue of Haryana Tourism each year. But when it comes time to return the favour, the State tends to play ostrich – and doesn’t look after its precious asset. “We have only four boats here, and they too are in a shambles. Our competitors have various types of modern boats, which help them to draw in the tourists. We have written to Chandigarh several times in the past few years, but nothing has happened,” says another senior official of Haryana Tourism.


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