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You called it a litmus test!

And then successive regimes failed to restore the glory of Brari Nambal lagoon
05:30 AM Jul 01, 2024 IST | ARIF SHAFI WANI
you called it a litmus test
Photo: Mubashir Khan/ GK

Adherence to deadlines especially in restoration of water bodies is must to save its flora and fauna from extinction. However, it’s ironic that environmental conservation projects in Jammu and Kashmir are treated as other developmental projects like construction of bridges and roads!


One of the glaring examples of official apathy, rather misplaced priorities, is conservation of Brari Nambal, a lagoon of Dal Lake. The ambitious project for restoring the glory of the lagoon situated at the entrance of Downtown Srinagar has been gathering dust for the last over two decades.


We have to understand that damage done to the environment is irreversible but its progress can be slowed down or further prevented.


The lagoon is testimony to the fact that how human greed can devour even bounties of nature. Brari Nambal was blessed with crystal clear waters which had healing properties. Its water was considered to be sacred. Even kings were amazed by the lagoon’s beauty.


Mesmerised by Brari Nambal’s beauty, the 14th-century King Zain-ul-Abidin, popularly called Budshah, constructed steam baths popularly known as hamams on its banks. Time passed and subsequent rulers maintained the sanctity of the lagoon. In the absence of conservation measures in the last three decades, water quality of the lagoon gradually deteriorated to such an extent that a pungent smell emanates from it.


Brari Nambal is considered to be ecologically important as it helps to regulate hydrology of Dal Lake by releasing its surplus waters into Jhelum via Fateh Kadal conduit. The foundation of Brari Nambal’s destruction was laid by the Government with the filling up of Nalla Mar which was its outflow channel during the 1970s. Subsequently with choking of its outflow channel, Brari Nambal’s hydrology was affected and it lost flushing capacity.


Taking cognisance of a series of reports by Greater Kashmir, highlighting deplorable condition of Brari Nambal, the Government in 2015 had formulated a comprehensive project to undertake the water body’s restoration. Government even termed the restoration of Brari Nambal as a “litmus test”. Nearly a decade has passed but no scientific measure has been taken to improve water quality of the lagoon.


Whatever has been done so far is sheer civil engineering work! One can have a view of the garbage laden waters of Brari Nambal from newly constructed decks and walking tracks amid a breeze of pungent smell!

Weeds have engulfed a major expanse of Brari Nambal. A vast portion of the lagoon from Baba Demb side has been extensively encroached upon. Scavengers have turned one portion of the water body as a dumping yard for used plastic and iron products. Various scavengers have constructed huts and even shops on filled up and encroached land.

Encroachment of Brari Nambal is happening is full glare of authorities. However, the concerned departments close their eyes by passing the buck to each other. Studies have shown that Brari Nambal has lost over 10 hectares in the last over four decades. Besides extensive growth of macrophytes has led to decrease in its open water surface.

Environmentalists mince no words to say that Brari Nambal is passing through the putrefaction process. The loss of area coupled with reduction in morphometric features, low depth, and higher trophic status indicate anthropogenic pressures compromising ecological integrity of the lagoon. The hyper-eutrophic state coupled with the high density of algal blooms signify high pollution load.

The Brari Nambal restoration project includes land acquisition, dredging, cleaning and shoreline development of the lagoon. However, authorities have been claiming that land acquisition is a major bottleneck in conservation of the water body. We have to understand the ecological importance of Brari Nambal. It doesn’t deserve to be converted into a wasteland or cesspool! Government can make conservation of Brari Nambal a model for restoration of other water bodies.

Government must explore options to construct an outlet of Brari Nambal through Nallah Mar to Aanchar lake through a small waterway. This will help to improve water circulation of Dal Lake, Brari Nambal and Anchar lake. There has to be a strong political will to ensure completion of environmental conservation projects. At the same time people’s participation is a must to ensure the success of such projects.

We have to act as custodians of our natural assets be it forests or water bodies.
Brari Nambal has immense potential to be developed as one of the major tourist and recreational spots in Downtown.

When authorities are beautifying abandoned areas under the Smart City project, why can’t Brari Nambal be developed and conserved? Why can’t any public sector undertaking (PSU) or corporate house take restoration of Brari Nambal as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

Isn’t it the responsibility of common people also to contribute their bit to save Brari Nambal and other water bodies from extinction!  Let us join hands to pass the litmus test of conserving the environment.

The author is Executive Editor, Greater Kashmir

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