How Human Greed Robbed Kashmir of its Title-‘Venice of the East’

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Standing on these glorious pine-clad mountains, looking through a clearing in the forest, I can see the entire vale of Kashmir stretched before me. I can see the endless green plains bordered on one side by golden fields and on the other side by forests. The dal lake lays glistening in the summer sun. Beyond it, you see the city of Srinagar, withits antique architecture. The fort of Hari Parbat stands tall encompassing the entire city of Srinagar in its shadow. These snow-clad mountains are the source of water for the Dal Lake and other water bodies. A long time ago, when human greed was yet to destroy everything, Dal Lake had many water inlets and outlets. One of these important canals was Nallah Mar, which literally was called Dal’s jugular vein. Nallah Mar was dug by Budshah, the eighth sultan of Kashmir in the 14th century, to regulate water levels as well as for inland transportation. Its beauty, combined with its numerous twists and turns, earned Srinagar the title of “Venice of the East”.
Starting from Brari Nambal Lagoon, Nallah Mar flowed into Khushalsar and Gillsar lakes via Eidgah and finally joined the Anchar Lake. Another branch flowed via Noorbagh into river Jhelum. As people began progressing, Nallah Mar, the lifeline of Dal, was buried because roads proved to be more important than preserving the beauty and glory of our water bodies. The unilateral decision to fill the canal and convert it into a road was opposed by no one. The canal was filled more for political reasons than for any actual development. The ecological and environmental consequences which would arise due to filling of the Nallah and its impact on the health of Dal and Brari Nambal lagoon were never considered. Filling of the Nallah not only brought water transport to a standstill, but also resulted in aging and eutrophication of Brari Nambal lagoon. Nowadays, due to higher BOD (Biological Oxygen Demand) levels and little DO (Dissolved Oxygen) in the Brari Nambal Lagoon, a foul smell always comes from the lagoon. Had Nallah Mar been still operational, Brari Nambal wouldn’t be choking to death. Alas! The Nallah Mar which gave Srinagar the title of “Venice of the East” was butchered by greedy humans for their own gains.
The canal, according to historians, was self-replenishing and self-cleansing.The canal bed was tiled with flat stones and bricks so that the canal remained clean and water could flow smoothly through it. The canal acted as a flood channel too and would channelise the flood water into Anchar Lake and ultimately into Wular through Jhelum and its tributaries. Had the canal still been there, the devastating September 2014 floods could have been prevented.
The Nallah Mar Road that came into existence after filling the Nallah Mar canal did not prove to be of much importance. Today, this road only serves as a battle ground for stone pelters and security forces.
During my school days, I was not able to understand the toponym of places like NaidKadal, BohriKadal, Saraaf Kadal, Qaed Kadal and Razay Kadal as I could not see any Kadal (bridge) anywhere in these places. Being a curious child, I asked my father about it. He replied that there used to be a nallah called “Mar” which was later on filled and so the bridges lost their importance. Later on, I even confirmed this from a relative who worked in SDA (Srinagar Development Authority). He, being a part of the authority who filled the nallah, explained how it was replaced by a road which is hardly used today.He told me how the boats, filled with vegetables and other eatables, used to cross the city from the BrariNambal Lagoon to other parts of Srinagar and to Ganderbal via Anchar. People of the city used to go on excursions in boats to Ganderbal, Qamar Sahab shrine and Kheer Bhawani. There were many ghats or Yarbals that served as portsfor loading and unloading the boats.  Salam Perun Yarbal, named after a high ranking official of Maharaja Hari Singh`s Government, was the most famous one. But with the advent of human greed, all these Yarbals met the same fate as the Nallah. 
Our present generation is hardly aware of our rich history and heritage. They don’t know how it feels to eat and relish a fresh nadur (Lotus stem) from the Dal. They don’t know how it feels to travel in a shikara. Our newer generation is losing touch with our rich heritage and it is only a matter of time before our heritage gets lost in the oblivion like many other great things. If we want to prevent this, it is time we worked towards reviving our traditions and culture.

 

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