The pungent smell emanating from a garbage mound forces every passerby to speed up. The scene is in quite contrast to the memories of wrinkled-faced Ghulam Mohammad Bhat about the spot in Kralpora town, on Srinagar-Charar-i-Sharief road.
"A few decades agothis area was all green and soothing to the eyes," said Bhat, an octogenarian.The spot assumes significance. At a shorter distance from heaps of garbage isDoodhganga filtration plant, which supplies water to around 2 lakh people indifferent Srinagar areas.
Built in 1972, the plant, having Doodhganga stream as itsonly source, filtrates 10 million gallons of water every day. But the water isno longer safe for drinking.
The garbage littered around the plant is not the onlyconcern. All along the course of Doodhganga habitations have mushroomed oneither side. The sewage coming out from the houses and all kinds of wastes endsup in once pristine water body, making its water unfit for drinking.
Doodhganga emerges from Tatakoti peak in Pir Panchalmountain range. A snow fed stream, it also gets waters from many springs,smaller lakes and tributaries, in Yousmarg and Branwar forests.
Known as 'Chashi Kuel' in local parlance, the water ofthe stream would be so pure that peopleused to say it is 'milky'. However the condition of water body has deterioratedover the years.
Just few kilometers ahead of Kralpora, in Wathoora andChadoora, concrete structures have replaced once vast rice fields.
The sewage pipes from the residential areas directly end upin Doodhganga. The leftovers of poultry, food wrappers, polythene bags andother kinds of waste are splattered all along its course.
The administration seems to be least bothered about thestream's deteriorating condition. Take the case of Chadoora municipalitycommittee which is one of the six committees of Budgam.
Each day, two to three ton waste of waste generated there isdumped in the trenches, on banks of Doodhganga, without any scientificsegregation.
Along Chadoora-Surasyar road, toilets have been constructedon rivulets which flow into Doodhganga. In Sugam village, more than six suchtoilets have been built on a tributary which merges with Doodhganga.
A senior PHE official acknowledged that over the years therehas been "increased bacteriological activity" in Doodhganga.
Last year, sensing gravity of the situation, State HumanRights Commission (SHRC) took cognizance of the issue and asked state governmentto submit a report on whether Doodhganga filtration plant was supplying potablewater to people.
Dr Qazi Ashiq Hussain, who has done an extensive research onDoodhganga, explains the reasons for its deteriorating condition. "Thefiltration plant is located in highly populated area and lot of waste adds intothe stream before it reaches the plant," said Hussain, adding at most of theplaces the drainage system ends up in the water body.
"This is proving detrimental for the river's biodiversitywhich is repository of numerous species of vertebrates and fishes. Stream is avibrant habitat, once you pollute it, you kill it," he cautioned.
Another reason for enormous turbidity in Doodhganga's isnaked karewas, devoid of any vegetation, along its course, which results insediments easily flowing into the stream during rainfall and turning the waterturbid, said Hussain.
On a normal day, as per the PHE official, turbidity levelsin Doodhganga waters are found to be 30 to 60 NTUs. However in rainy or dryseason turbidity levels increase enormously up to 1500 NTUs, signifying theextent to which rivers water has been contaminated.
In the last three decades, the "reckless" cutting of treesin forests in upper catchment of the stream has also led to deterioration ofwater quality.
"It has left soil open. Once this forest soil, high inorganic matter, gets exposed to sunlight, it gives rise to enormous unexpectedamounts of phosphorus and nitrogen levels in the soil, which ultimately findtheir way into the river,' explained Hussain.
The pesticides seeping into the stream from the orchards andagriculture fields has added to contamination level of the Doodhgangawater.
Assistant professor of environmental sciences at KashmirUniversity, Dr Arshid Jehangir said pesticides cannot be filtered if they getdissolved into water. "Pesticides can be removed only through sedimentation ifthey get attached with organic matter. However, if pesticides get dissolved inwater, they cannot be filtered," said Jehangir adding intake of pesticides causemutation, cancer and can prove fatal for children.
The PHE department is now planning to tap Doodhgangaupstream directly which they say will not only lower the costs of watertreatment but they hope to get contamination free supply. The supply line wouldbe taken 20 kms upstream to get water directly at Novhar forest areas.
The proposal, the department hopes will work as heaps ofgarbage can be seen littered on banks of Doodhganga, right from Srinagar up toBudgam.
The Rural Sanitation Department conceded that wastes werefinding their way into Doodhganga. The department's district's nodal officer,Hilal Ahmad Mir said they were planning to build soakage pits and follow wastesegregation program to address the problem.
Chief Engineer PHE, Abdul Wahid Lone agreed that Doodhgangawas polluted. But he passed the buck on Economic Reconstruction Agency (ERA)for delaying the Novhar pipeline. "We had allocated the project to ERA fiveyears ago. We have been regularly asking them to complete it," said Lone.
The ERA project manager hydraulics, Ghulam Jeelani said thework on Novhar pipeline has been re-started and it will be completed in month'stime.