Brari Nambal lagoon at Baba Demb here is on the verge of extinction due to state government’s failure to launch conservation measures to restore the water body.
Situated at the entrance of Downtown here, Brari Nambal assumes significance as it helps to regulate hydrology of Dal lake by releasing surplus waters into river Jhelum at Fateh Kadal area.
Till few decades ago, Brari Nambal possessed rich flora and fauna and crystal clear waters.The deterioration of the Brari Nambal started with the closure of Nallah Mar canal in 70s’. Subsequently, the authorities diverted most of the drains of the city into the lagoon and unscrupulous people extensively encroached upon it. In the past three decades, the lagoon has shrunk from five to just 0.75 sq km.
A large portion of the lagoon has been encroached upon by scavengers and some unscrupulous persons from Baba Demb side. In absence of conservation due to delay in land acquisition, the lagoon has turned into a cesspool. From Khanyar side, scavengers sell second-hand goods on banks of the water body.
“The condition of Brari Nambal continues to deteriorate due to apathy of the government. It has become a stinking cesspool with obnoxious growth of weed engulfing it,” said Ajaz Rasool, a hydraulic engineer and environmentalist.
“If the apathy continues, retrieval of this water body would become an irreversible proposition. It is imperative that present dispensation takes a note for its ecological restoration and conservation before it is too late,” he added.
The Government in 2013 had formulated a comprehensive project to undertake restoration of the water body. But the conservation measures could not be implemented due to paucity of funds.
After sustained campaign by Greater Kashmir highlighting lagoon’s deteriorating condition, the government in 2015 termed restoration of the lagoon as “litmus test” and announced slew of conservation measures to restore it. Baring beautification of footpath around the lagoon, no conversation measure has been undertaken in past three years.
On 20 July, 2017, the then Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti inspected the progress on Brari Nambal revival project and directed for expediting conservation works. But the land acquisition proved a major hurdle. Officials said there are over 500 kanals of proprietary land in the lagoon.
“We are ready to shift from the lagoon but LAWDA has been dilly-dallying acquisition of our land. This land is our lone source of livelihood and we have been offered Rs 15 lakh per kanal while market rate is over Rs 50 lakh,” said Bashir Ahmad, a farmer, who owns six kanals of land in Brari Nambal.
The problem has been compounded as LAWDA does not have funds for land acquisition. “Though we constructed walkways and dredged out portion of state land in lagoon, but could not undertake sustained conservation measures as acquisition of proprietary land is pending for want of funds,” said assistance executive engineer (LAWDA) Nazia Nazir.
Under Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation scheme (AMRUT), there is no provision for land acquisition. “Now, we have sought funds under Prime Minister’s Development Package for land acquisition,” she added.
Collector LAWDA, Syed Khan, said 462 kanals of proprietary land are to be acquired for conservation of the lagoon. “We hope to receive funds for land acquisition soon,” he said.
According to historians, 14th century king Zainulabidin popularly known as Budshah was so mesmerized by the lagoon’s beauty that he constructed Hamams on its banks.
“The lagoon was a favorite fishing and picnic spot of Downtown. Before filling of Nallah Mar, doongas from Brari Nambal used to cruise upto Tulmulla. A temple in midst of the lagoon was thronged by Kashmir Pandits. The condition of the lagoon mocks at government’s non-seriousness towards conservation of natural resources,” said civil society member and noted poet Zarief Ahmad Zarief. “Restoration of the lagoon can serve as a model for conservation of other water bodies,” he added.