Brari Nambal lagoon on verge of extinction
Srinagar: Known for its glory until the seventies, Brari Nambal lagoon, also known as Baba Demb, is in its last throes.
The unabated encroachment on the lagoon and the inordinate delay in the conservation of the water body is severely affecting its fragile ecosystem.
Once known for crystal clear waters, today the only remnants of the Brari Nambal are heaps of garbage and weeds.
In absence of conservation measures, the lagoon is now on the verge of extinction with unabated pollution and extensive encroachments.
The Baba Demb area has for years remained in news for illegal dumping and filling of Brari Nambal lagoon and the construction of illegal structures.
According to experts, the lagoon is dying silently as encroachments and illegal constructions in the area continue to go unabated.
Greater Kashmir carried out multiple visits to the area to assess the current situation and found that scores of kiosks had come up where both locals and non-locals were putting up and indulging in commercial activities.
The visits also revealed that many new “business units” had come up in the area.
It was found that the dumping of material in the lagoon was going on under the nose of the authorities.
Brari Nambal is considered to be ecologically important as it helps regulate the hydrology of Dal Lake by releasing its surplus waters into River Jhelum via a conduit at Fateh Kadal.
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.
Now weeds have engulfed a large expanse of the Brari Nambal waters and the water body has been extensively encroached upon on the Baba Demb side.
Locals said that despite many anti-encroachment drives, illegal dwellings were coming up in the area affecting the ecological balance as well.
“There have been many drives against the encroachment but still one can see the area dotted with these structures used for various purposes. In absence of conservation measures, the lagoon is on the verge of extinction and the area has been defaced with unabated pollution and extensive encroachments,” said Abdul Razzaq, a resident of the Baba Demb area.
Earlier this year, the Enforcement Wing of the Lake Conservation and Management Authority (LCMA) launched a spontaneous demolition drive in Baba Demb.
During the drive, many tin sheds and wooden structures were demolished.
However, the ground visits carried out by Greater Kashmir revealed that the area is still dotted with countless tin sheds and wooden structures.
Due to the immense ecological importance of Brari Nambal, its restoration is a litmus test for the government.
Ironically, successive regimes have failed in the litmus test to start the lagoon’s conservation.
After a sustained campaign by Greater Kashmir highlighting the deplorable condition of the water body, the government formulated a comprehensive project in 2015 to undertake the water body’s restoration.
However, despite the announcement of the much-hyped conservation plans, authorities have failed to ensure scientific intervention to restore Brari Nambal.
Environmentalists believe that the continuous encroachment in the area is putting pressure on the already deteriorated lagoon.
More structures mean more population and activities which in turn affects the ecological balance of Dal Lake as well.
Irfan Rashid, a research scientist who has worked extensively in the area, said that more human activity in the area would add to the already deteriorating situation.
“More residential and commercial activities in the area means more human waste which will add to the problem. Authorities will have to take strict action against the encroachers to save the ecological balance of the lagoon and the adjacent area,” he said.
Over the past decade, the High Court directed various departments to file an affidavit on illegal constructions near the Brari Nambal lagoon.
It also directed to file affidavits that there no dumping of debris or construction material would be allowed in the Brari Nambal lagoon.
However, for years these activities are going on unabated.
A senior official of the Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) said that the Brari Nambal area comes under the jurisdiction of LCMA.
He said the adjacent area that comes under their jurisdiction was being looked into properly and anti-encroachment drives were also carried out repeatedly.
VC LCMA Bashir Bhat told Greater Kashmir that they were continuously carrying out anti-encroachment drives to ensure that no structure was set up in the area.
“We don’t have jurisdiction over the full area of Brari Nambal. However, we are looking into the area under our jurisdiction. In the recent anti-encroachment drives we dismantled many structures in the area. Many people are following a common modus operandi to set up temporary structures there. They start with tin sheds and over the years set up sheds and other structures. We are carrying out drives to ensure that this doesn’t happen. We will again carry out drives to check if any new structure is being constructed there and stop all illegal activities,” Bhat said.
Research conducted by the Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Kashmir, on Brari Nambal states that the water body has lost over 10 hectares in the last 40 years.
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.
Over a hundred kanal of proprietary land was to be acquired in the lagoon.
According to historians, 14th-century king Zain-ul-Abidin, popularly known as Budshah, was so mesmerised by Brari Nambal's beauty that he got Hamams constructed on its banks.
The windows of the Hamams faced toward the lagoon and people used to have steam and herbal baths there.
Today, in absence of conservation, Brari Nambal lagoon has turned into a cesspool.