Chandigarh: Over the past fortnight, the thousands who used to throng the pretty Sukhna Lake, Chandigarh's famous tourist attraction, particularly over the weekends, are missing. This Sunday was no different.
The boats, which were a major attraction, are stationary. Also missing are the nearly 200-odd ducks and geese. Except for some crows and other birds, there is hardly any life in or around the lake and its well-maintained causeway which was also the meeting point for hundreds of morning and evening walkers and fitness enthusiasts.
The scare of bird flu, which hit this important landmark in mid-December, has taken a toll. The scare started after nearly 30 geese and ducks died mysteriously in the first half of December. Of the samples sent for examination, one tested positive for H5N1 virus or avian flu (also called bird flu).
The geese and ducks were culled by the authorities after the bird flu scare. Entry to the entire lake complex, which is spread along three kilometres, has been banned by the district authorities since Dec 19.
No visitors, tourists or morning/evening walkers are allowed anywhere near the complex. Barricades have been put up by the Chandigarh Police at least 200 metres away from the complex.
"No one is allowed into the complex except for those on duty (like police and wildlife officials) and some journalists. The ban could continue for the next few days," a Chandigarh policewoman at one of the barricades told IANS.
Health and wildlife officials in Chandigarh, Punjab and Haryana have been regularly monitoring people living close to the lake complex for any symptoms of bird flu.
White boric powder has been sprinkled in the whole complex, including the roads, parking and the walking area.
"We came to see the lake as we had heard a lot about its beauty. But we are disappointed we cannot see it," Dhiraj Ahuja, who came to Chandigarh from Jaipur, told IANS.
The commercial complex at the lake, which has some eateries and shops, is said to be losing over Rs.2 lakh in business daily for the past nearly three weeks.
The mini amusement park for children too wears a deserted look. The lake sports complex, which has a club house, sporting facilities and water sports and is a popular destination for weddings and other functions, too is bereft of any activity.
The morning and evening walkers are particularly upset.
"I have been walking over 11 km at the lake for the past 30 years daily. After entry to the area was banned, I have been going for walks to other parks and roads but the charm of the lake is not there. I am missing the lake," lawyer Sunil Parti told IANS.
Authorities in Chandigarh banned entry to the lake complex fearing the water too could be contaminated. But samples of the water and the birds sent to various labs recently have tested negative. It may take a few days more for the city's pride to get back to business.