Anantnag: Panzath, a village located barely few kilometers from Qazigund area of south Kashmir’s Anantnag district boasts of some of the purest and beautiful springs in Kashmir known for rainbow trout.
The village deriving its name from the Kashmiri words Paanch, meaning five, and hath, meaning hundred, was originally said to be home to over 500 small and major springs.
However, the exact number of springs and rivulets remain unknown.
The springs have degraded over the years mainly due to encroachment and pollution, diminishing the precious fish.
“The sewage waste flows into the spring from various sources, causing damage to the aquatic life,” says Gul Muhammad Ganai, a local.
He said that as autumn approaches, the water levels decline, leading to the proliferation of aquatic weeds and algal bloom.
Ganai says that only the collective effort of the community in weeding during the annual festival helps in restoring the springs to an extent.
The Panzath Nag celebration, a tradition that has survived for 900 years and celebrated every spring season in the village, is the unique custom that involves the community coming together to clean the water bodies, expressing their deep reverence for nature.
The locals also catch fish on the occasion and then relish it in their meals.
“The encroachments along the banks of the springs need to be stopped to prevent them from further degradation,” Ganai says.
He cautions authorities against using heavy machinery to clean springs, as it would disturb the flora and fauna.
Around 50 villages in Qazigund depend on the water of these springs for irrigating their paddy fields and 35 among them rely on it for drinking purposes.
Locals are also for promoting trout fish production and providing alternative sources of livelihood to the once-thriving fishing community.
“We are hopeful that the Fisheries Department helps the people here in establishing private units and boost our economy,” said Mushtaq Shah, another local.
The department has already established a fisheries hatchery here and it is now the largest in terms of seed production.
The area was bought under Verinag Development Authority (VDA) last year but as of now not much has been done to woo the tourists here.
“Only a park has been set up here on the banks of spring, nothing more,” he said.
Shah said they expect the springs to become major attractions like those of Kokernag, Achabal, and Verinag.
Talking to Greater Kashmir, Assistant Director Fisheries, Anantnag, Muhammad Siddique said, “The hatchery is mainly a seed centre and it produces 4 lakh rainbow trout seeds annually.”
He said that the hatchery produces 4 to 5 tons of fish and it fetches the department Rs 45 lakh annually.
“The fish are sold at the sale centre in nearby Wanpora village,” Siddique said.
Verinag Development Authority (VDA), Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Roman Sheikh told Greater Kashmir that they would do everything possible to bring this place on the tourist map.