Srinagar: Failure of the government to restore glory of Brari Nambal, a water body in the heart of the summer capital is severely affecting its fragile ecosystem.
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.
“Brari Nambal possessed crystal clear water till over five decades ago. Its surface was so clear that we used to throw coins in its waters and easily see and collect them. Its deterioration started after filling up of Nallah Mar,” said a local Ali Muhammad, a septuagenarian.
“The water body was one of the major tourist attractions. Tourists used to board shikaras and travel to Wullar via Nallah Mar. Now, Brari Nambal has been converted into a cesspool. We are unable to bear the pungent smell emanating from its polluted waters,” he rued.
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.
Given ecological importance of Brari Nambal, its restoration was termed as a litmus test for the government.
Ironically, despite the passing of over nine years, 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.
According to historians, 14th-century king Zainulabidin, popularly called Budshah, was so mesmerised 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 bath there.
Environmentalists said authorities have only taken “cosmetic measures” like construction of footpaths and kiosks around Brari Nambal.
“Ornamental fencing and construction of viewing points are futile unless eco-restoration of Brari Nambal is undertaken on a scientific basis. It is ironic that no scientific measure has been taken so far to stop inflow of pollutants and remove weeds from Brari Nambal,” said Ajaz Rasool, an environmentalist.
“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.
Shahid Ahmad Dar, a research scholar at the Department of Environmental Science Kashmir University, who has done extensive study on Brari Nambal said, the water body has lost over 10 hectares in last over 40 years. “This has resulted in explosive growth of macrophytes and decrease in spread of open water,” he said.
Elaborating, he said, there are ecological implications for Brari Nambal as most of the sewage load from Srinagar city is being treated at STPs constructed on its southern bank.
“This effect is potentially magnified as there is an increasing concern that the water body would be acting as an ecological trap, and there is an increasing likelihood of pollution by heavy metals increasing the sediment toxicity and ecological stress to its biota. A major consideration should be given to the removal efficiencies of STPs to lessen the concentration of TP,TN, and total suspended solids to attain precise discharge standards,” Dar added.
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. “We have sent a report to the Divisional Commissioner for land acquisition in Brari Nambal. We are planning to conduct dredging and cleaning of the Brari Nambal area. We want to increase flow of water to the lagoon and also construct STP at Nowpora channel to prevent inflow of polluted water,” Vice Chairman, J&K Lake Conservation and Management Authority Bashir Ahmad Bhat told Greater Kashmir.