Before the 1970s, Brari Nambal had two outlets, one on the west side and the other on the north from Nallah Mar.
During the 1970s, Nallah Mar was earth-filled and converted into a road—severely affecting the water body’s hydrology through loss of flushing capacity.
Following a sustained campaign by Greater Kashmir highlighting the lagoon's deplorable condition, the government in 2015 formulated a comprehensive project to undertake Brari Nambal's restoration, which was termed as 'litmus test' for the administration.
However, since 2015 successive administrations have failed the test.
"It's like putting make-up on a dead-body," said Shabir Ahmed while pointing towards the hutments and footpath constructed along the Babedemb-Khanyar road on the fringes of Brari Nambal.
Impressed by Chuntkul’s beauty, the India Council of Cultural Relations had organised a camp for students of 25 countries in 1960s. Owing to the natural beauty of Chuntkul and Chinar Bagh, the then Prime Minister of the erstwhile State, Bakshi Ghulam Muhammad used to encourage tourism and cultural promotional activities by participating in them.
However, after the filling of Nallah Mar canal, which snaked through the Old City, Chuntkul emerged as main outflow channel of Dal lake. In view of environmental and tourism potential, the then authorities used to undertake regular cleaning and dredging of Chuntkul.
During early 1980s, Chuntkul was gradually encroached with hutments and other concrete structures. In 2007, a demolition drive was carried out by the administration but even after 15-years, amid a climatic catastrophe, the main backchannel of Dal Lake remains unattended, unclean, and in a desperate need of treatment.
Notwithstanding the High Court order decreeing demolition of illegal structures and rehabilitation for the hutment dwellers, banks of Chuntkul remain encroached at several places in the Barbar Shah-Gaw Kadal belt.
Tons of garbage have accumulated across Chuntkul and beneath Dalgate via-duct.
Pumping stations behind Kashmir Golf Club and Barbarshah open their mouths into the Chuntkul, further affecting the water body, turning it murky and smelly," said a resident, who identified himself as Ahmad.
"This state of the Dal Lake's main back-channel is choking the famous water body extensively which encompasses over 800 houseboats and gives life to numerous aquatic species." It's time for the administration to take the bull by the horns now," Ahmad said.
Environmentalists maintain that restoration of Chuntkul is imperative for overall health of Dal Lake. They say its conservation must be done on war-footing using sustained and scientific techniques.
Tufail Ganie is a trainee journalist at Greater Kashmir and is currently pursuing his Masters in Journalism from the University of Kashmir, Hazratbal.