Decades on, no progress on restoration of Brari Nambal lagoon

Inordinate delay to restore water body affecting its fragile eco-system: Experts
Decades on, no progress on restoration of Brari Nambal lagoon
In absence of conservation measures, the lagoon is on the verge of extinction with unabated pollution and extensive encroachments.Mubashir Khan for Greater Kashmir

Srinagar: With government sitting on restoration of Brari Nambal lagoon here, experts maintain that inordinate delay in conservation of the water body is severely affecting its fragile eco-system.

Once known for crystal clear waters, the only remnants of Brari Nambal are garbage heaps and weeds. Brari Nambal is considered to be ecologically important as it helps to regulate hydrology of Dal Lake by releasing its surplus waters into river Jhelum via a conduit at Fateh Kadal area.

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.

In absence of conservation measures, the lagoon is on the verge of extinction with unabated pollution and extensive encroachments.

Weeds have engulfed a large expanse of its waters. The water body has been extensively encroached upon on the Baba Demb side.

After a sustained campaign by Greater Kashmir highlighting the deplorable condition of the water body, the Government had formulated a comprehensive project in 2015 to undertake the water body’s restoration.

Due to the immense ecological importance of Brari Nambal, its restoration was termed as a litmus test for the government. Ironically, despite the passing of nearly a decade, successive regimes have failed in the litmus test to start the lagoon’s conservation. The only remnants of the once sparking water body are weeds, garbage dumps and encroachments.

“Despite announcement of much-hyped conservation plans, authorities have failed to ensure scientific intervention to restore Brari Nambal. So far there has been only engineering work on peripheries of the lagoon and no measure has been taken to improve its water quality,” noted environmentalist Dr MRD Kundangar told Greater Kashmir.

Elaborating, Dr Kundangar said the lagoon is passing through a putrefaction process. “Due to high bacterial load by influx of sewage, Brari Nambal is stinking from the release of hydrogen sulphide gases,” he added.

According to historians, 14th-century king Zainulabidin, popularly called Budshah, was so mesmerized by Brari Nambal's beauty that he got Hamams constructed on its banks. The windows of the Hamams faced towards the lagoon and people used to have steam and herbal baths there.

“We are losing Brari Nambal with each passing day. Unabated pollution is severely affecting its fragile eco-system. In absence of conservation, the lagoon has turned into a cesspool,” said Ajaz Rasool an environmentalist and hydraulic engineer.

“Its condition is a glaring example of apathy of authorities towards conservation of our natural assets. Cosmetic measures by authorities like construction of footpaths and kiosks are futile under sewage inflow and encroachments are stopped,” he said.

“This has severely affected the fragile water body’s eco-system. Brari Nambal is stinking and full of filth. Its condition is a glaring example of apathy of authorities towards conservation of our natural assets,” said Ajaz, who is also a hydraulic engineer. “Conservation of Brari Nambal could have been a model for restoration of other water bodies in Kashmir,” he added.

Research conducted by Department of Environmental Science Kashmir University on Brari Nambal states that the water body has lost over 10 hectares in the last over 40 years. “This has resulted in explosive growth of macrophytes and decrease in spread of open water,” he said.

The Brari Nambal restoration project includes land acquisition, dredging, cleaning and shoreline development of the lagoon. Officials said LAWDA had several years ago submitted a separate project of Rs 65 crore for acquiring land and Rs 90 crore for cleaning Brari Nambal to the Government, but the project was shelved.

Officials said over a hundred kanal of proprietary land is to be acquired in the lagoon. Several months ago, J&K Lake Conservation and Management Authority had sent a report to the Government for land acquisition in Brari Nambal. But officials said there is no headway on land acquisition so far. “We have floated tenders for restoration of Brari Nambal. We have devised a comprehensive plan to restore the lagoon,” said Dr Bashir Ahmad Bhat, Vice Chairman J&K Lake Conservation and Management Authority.

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