19/01/2015 6:16 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:24 AM IST

Chandigarh's Sukhna Lake Welcomes Walks Back After Bird Flu Scare

Hindustan Times via Getty Images
CHANDIGARH, INDIA - DECEMBER 21: Sukhna wore a deserted look, even as health department teams spray lime to disinfect the area in wake of avian flu on December 21, 2014 on Chandigarh, India. Recently, after one of the geese was tested positive for avian influenza, after their death at Chandigarh's Sukhna lake, some 110 ducks were culled to prevent possible spread of bird flu in the region in Chandigarh. (Photo by Ravi Kumar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images )

With dense fog reducing visibility to only 50 metres Monday and biting cold, Chandigarh's Sukhna Lake could not bask in the glory of rising sun for a grand re-opening.

But the chilly morning did not stop scores of morning walkers who turned up at the lake complex, which opened to public Monday after one month.

As police bands played in the background, Chandigarh administration officials lined up in their track-suits to mark the formal re-opening of the city's most popular tourist spot.

"Sukhna Lake Breathes Again" signboards greeted visitors, many of whom were youngsters, as the lake complex saw human activity once again after remaining closed for a month.

But enthusiasm among the lake's die-hard regular walkers and fitness enthusiasts was infectious as they who braved the unfriendly weather conditions to ensure that they did not miss being at the lake for even a day more.

"It is good to be back at the lake. It has such an attraction for an early morning or evening walk," former Indian hockey team captain and Olympian Pargat Singh, who is now a legislator in Punjab, told IANS.

"I missed the lake so much. I have been coming here for over 20 years. Despite the fog and the cold conditions, I am feeling so refreshed," morning walker J.R. Gupta told IANS, striding with an extra bounce.

The Sukhna Lake complex, which was shut down Dec 19, was formally opened for the public Monday. The scare of bird flu, which hit this landmark, had forced local authorities to ban public entry into the complex.

The bird flu scare started after nearly 30 geese and ducks died mysteriously during the first half of December. Of the samples sent for examination, one tested positive for H5N1 virus or avian flu (also called bird flu).

"I am happy to be back here. Even though most of the lake and the Kasauli hills are not visible today (Monday) due to the fog, it is such a pleasant experience to be back," lawyer Sunil Parti, who has been walking at the lake for nearly 29 years, told IANS.

Missing from action at the lake complex were the scores of white ducks and geese, which were culled following the bird flu scare, and their cackle as people used to bring bread and other eatables to feed them.

Local authorities got the lake complex thoroughly washed Sunday before it was allowed to be re-opened. White boric powder had been sprinkled in the whole complex, including the roads, parking and the promenade walking area.

It was for the first time in the history of this man-made lake that it was shutdown for public entry.

However, the authorities have decided not to allow boating, which is highly popular among tourists and local visitors, for the next few days as a precautionary measure against water contamination from infected birds.

Health and wildlife officials in Chandigarh, Punjab and Haryana regularly monitored people living close to the lake complex for any symptoms of bird flu.

The commercial complex at the lake, which has some eateries and shops, is reported to have taken a hit of over Rs.7 million (70 lakh) due to the closure.

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, remained bereft of any activity.