Govt in slumber as Brari Nambal lagoon nears extinction
Inordinate delay in launching conservation measures to restore glory of Brari Nambal lagoon in Downtown here has pushed the water body on the verge of extinction.
The lagoon was an example of the engineering excellence of King Zainulabidin popularly known as Budshah, the 14th-century ruler of Kashmir. Before the government filled up the Nallah Mar, a serpentine waterway which passed through Downtown, the lagoon was the main outflow channel of Dal lake. It was also a major route of inland water transportation system in the city. However, closure of the Nallah Mar channel over four decades ago gradually took toll on Brari Nambal.
In absence of sustained conservation measures, the lagoon has turned into a cesspool. "Brari Nambal lagoon continues to be the most polluted linkage of Dal Lake and is on the verge of extinction," said Ajaz Rasool a hydraulic engineer.
After sustained campaign by Greater Kashmir highlighting deplorable condition of the water body, the state government in 2015 had termed restoration of the lagoon as "litmus test" and announced slew of conservation measures to restore it. Though the authorities undertook beautification of footpath around the lagoon and removed waste from its banks, but they are yet to launch scientific measures to improve its water quality.
"All that Government has done till now is cosmetic measures for aesthetics while pollution abatement measures remain yet to be implemented and commissioned. The weeded part continues to be there as also the encroachment has not been removed," said Ajaz who is also an environmentalist.
A spot visit to the lagoon reveals that tons of garbage has been dumped on its banks from Baba Demb and Khanyar sides. The problem is compounded by presence of scavengers who have dumped old furniture and second hand items in front of the lagoon.
On 20th July, 2017, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti had inspected the progress on Brari Nambal Revival project under execution at cost of Rs 16.91 crore. The Chief Minister had directed for expediting restoration of the lagoon and asked the minister for Education Syed Altaf Bukhari to monitor the pace of the project. Sources said some senior officials of various departments especially Housing and Urban Development "are non-serious to restore the lagoon."
"They are deliberately delaying execution of the Brari Nambal Revival project. This is sheer disparity with Srinagar that such a vital conservation project is being delayed," they said.
Minister for Education Syed Altaf Bukhari acknowledged delay in launching conservation of Brari Nambal. "Chief Minister is serious to restore glory of Brari Nambal. Ironically, some departments are creating unnecessary hurdles in restoration of the lagoon. Despite all odds, Government is committed to restore the lagoon," Bukhari told Greater Kashmir.
To mention, Bukhari during a visit to Brari Nambal on 10th August 2017 had directed concerned officers to place indent of 60 kanals of proprietary land and issue notice under Section 4 for acquisition. "Ironically, the process is yet to be completed. During Bukhari's visit, a senior officer of Housing and Urban Development department deliberately remained absent delaying finalising of several conservation measures. The matter has been taken up at highest level and appropriate action will be taken against the official," sources said.
Dr Hafeez Masoodi, vice-chairman Lakes and Waterways Development Authority (LAWDA), which has been entrusted with conservation of Brari Nambal, said "the delay in issuing notification for indent of 60 kanals of proprietary land in the lagoon has been caused as revenue authorities are yet to provide us relevant khasra numbers. The process will hopefully be completed soon," he said.
Brari Nambal restoration is being funded under centrally sponsored Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) scheme. "Under this scheme, there is no provision for funding land acquisition. We will now place demand for funding the land acquisition under state sector," Masoodi said.
The inordinate delay in restoration of the lagoon has irked locals. "It is ironical that the despite getting five assembly seats in Srinagar, ruling People's Democratic Party is sitting on vital projects including Brari Nambal restoration while developmental works in other districts are in full swing and completed within stipulated time," they said.