Neglecting Brari Nambal

It’s restoration plan has always been discussed and then dumped

Kashmir Magazine

Beautification plan of Srinagar city is once again making rounds with stress on the need to preserve heritage value of the city and its peripheries. Among developmental initiatives in terms of parks, green streets, public convenience points, installation of street lights, creation of parking places, etc., conservation of the Dal Lake and other water bodies has once again been focussed.

Pursuing developmental initiatives in Kashmir, particularly in Srinagar city, has always remained a huge challenge for the kind of political, economic, ecological and social environment. In the given conflict situation, we have lost focus on vital issues - deteriorating environment, falling of social & cultural values and slipping of economic potential, leaving people in turmoil.

A case in point is the deteriorating environment which among other things is threatening our food resources and natural water bodies. In the context of Srinagar city, we are witnessing water-stress situation as our water reservoirs are fast drying.

Let me explain ‘water-stress’ situation which is getting severe in nature that too well under the nose of officials. There are reports of geo-hydrologists in place which warnlosing of the Kashmir valley's only year-round source of water - Kolahoi glacier to global warming. The glacier is melting at an alarming rate.

Notably, the glacier feeds the Jhelum river, which drains into the Dal lake. This is the main source of making the valley fertile, besides being source to lagoons in the valley. In normal course, the melting snow in summer keeps the valley water-rich. Now the melting glaciers like the Kolahoi are fast triggering “water-stress” situation.

This water-stress has shattered the pristine glory of lagoons like Brari Nambal in heritage city of Srinagar. Today this lagoon, which plays an important role of regulating hydrology of Dal Lake by releasing its surplus waters into river Jhelum, is on the verge of extinction. Encroachments and pollution have almost engulfed it. For almost two decades now, this gateway to downtown Srinagar - Shaher-e-Khaas - is craving for government attention. Even as the issue of restoring the glory of this important lagoon was discussed several times, the lack of will of successive governments aggravated deterioration in its fragile eco-system.

There are scores of similar situations across the state, particularly in the Kashmir valley, where we are losing precious resources to neglect. The current political dispensation several times 'vowed' to restore glory of the lagoon only to negate the oath. The government in 2013 had ordered short term conservation measures including immediate cleaning, dredging, expansion and beautification of the lagoon. However, it was paucity of funds which failed the plan. A project of Rs 65 crore for acquiring land and Rs 90 crore for cleaning Brari Nambal was submitted by the Lakes & Water Ways Development Authority (LAWDA) to Government. But it never saw light of the day.

A listed corporate had submitted a separate restoration plan of Brari Nambal to the concerned authorities. The expenditure was to be made by the corporate under its corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative. The amount was to be incurred over a period of 2-3 years depending upon the scope of work.Besides conservation of the lagoon, the corporate had proposed to construct Rose Garden, English Garden, Bogon Velia Garden, Topeyari Garden, French Garden and Lilly Garden in it. It had also proposed a children’s play area, water body with fountains, amphitheatre, walking and jogging tracks, boating and adventure zone court.

But surprisingly, the government authorities dumped the proposal even though they were not going to spend even a penny on the project.

The situation described above should be an eye opener for the authorities discussing plans to preserve the heritage value of the Srinagar city. They don’t need special skill to propose and discuss such heritage projects. What they need is a skill to arrange and manage funds for implementation of the projects. Otherwise it’s always an exercise in futile.

Arranging funds for such projects within the state resources is not possible. Here, let me reiterate, the state government should catch hold of corporate Inc. to seek funding of such projects. Our state, despite being badly hurt by conflict, has turned out a most profitable avenue for the corporate world. Now CSR law is in place to make the corporate Inc to repay out of its profits to Kashmiri society.

Under their CSR banner, the corporate world can be humbly tamed to take up projects like restoration of Brari Nambal lagoon, developing infrastructure to negotiate climate change and helping communities to remain water-rich.

(The views are of the author & not the institution he works for)