Nahr-e- Zainageer- A Neglected Heritage

This piece of writing is about understanding the value, treatment and protection of heritage, and in it I am trying to highlight the various issues related to heritage identities, the maintenance, repatriation, and protection of heritage. All are important concerns that have global and domestic applicability.

Transformations of geo political economy over the past century have threatened the importance of heritages and identity. In recent years, many of the efforts to conserve heritage resources have been expressed in terms of “heritage development.” Number ofgovernment and NGO initiatives have begun to increase our vision for the importance of strengthen locality and encouraging diversity in the face of increased pressures toward globalization and homogenization.

The protection of the past is necessary component of preserving local identity and sense of heritage. However, the protection  of heritage often comes at a cost. With the increased interest and the new infusion of funds into heritage development, there are always tradeoffs that have social, political, and economic implications. The question that often arises is, “Which heritage is best to preserve, and will the promotion of heritage have an impact on the local cultural resources, the community, and the environment?”

For instance, the protection of heritage may provide a boost to the local economy in the form of tourism, but at present there is too little understanding of this economic impact. Let’s talk of the ancient canals which are an important part of our heritage and cause of the civilization. It is because of the water the civilizations flourished and reached at the apex. The history of canals is the history of civilizations. With the beginning of agriculture the start of   canal system also emerged and endeavor was in the form of urbanization. The story starts with the civilizations which developed in the basins of the Indus, Tigris, Euphrates, Nile, Amu Darya and Yellow rivers.

Now my main concern here is the Nahre Zainageer (BAEDH KOUL) which is the incredible gift inherited from our fore fathers. Its origin is from the famous Wular Lake which is the famous picnic spot though the major portion of it is under the control of Indian Navy and the entry is restricted. The Nahre Zainageer is also the tributary of the river Jehlum. From its origin Nahre Zainageer irrigates miles of hectares of rice fields and the apple orchards on which the economy of Sopore depends. Due to the blessings of this canal Sopore is also called the apple town of Kashmir. This canal also has the historical significance, it is said to be originally constructed by the famous engineer of Lalitaditya known as Suya though we don’t have literary sources to prove it, but the town built by him Suyapur presently known as Sopore was mentioned by the Kalhana in his book Rajatarangni. Later in the sultanate period also known as the Muslim period when Badhshah (Zainul Abidin) was ruling the Kashmir the canal was renovated and further extended. This is not just one canal it’s the network of channels and streams. It runs through the mountain ranges from its origin up to the village of Pazalpora which was once the famous  picnic spot also (again in control of Indian Army). The stunning thing is that gravity plays its role in flowing of water and rate of discharge at each connection is constant.

Zainul Abidin also built a town in his name called Zinageer which is still known in the same name and also the Islands in the Wular lake known as Zinalank. The canal was also called Nahre Zainageer then. During the Dogra rule people were not allowed to walk on the banks of canal with pin sole shoes so was the respect and care of the canal.

We owe a lot to this fascinating water source which kept us alive during the droughts. The canal is  wailing for the help from the people. It is in pathetic condition now as people have encroached upon its banks which once stood five meters high and are barely now one and half meters. The soil of the banks is used in the filling of the lands and for construction purposes. It was an everlasting gift to us but the people unfortunately changed it to the dumping yard. All the waste materials and polythene bags are dumped in and along the banks of the canal. The condition of the Nahre Zaingeer is deteriorating fast and callous people and negligent Government are pushing it to extinction.  Making roads along the banks of the canal also is adding to its misery. MGNERAGA road connectivity along the banks of the canal also devastated the banks. Government has done nothing to preserve this heritage. Some maintenance work was done before a decade which yielded nothing. People easily erode the soil and the poplar trees are uprooted for construction purposes without any concern. A decade ago along the banks of the canal there used to be thousands of mulberry trees, now looking at the banks there are no signs of greenery. If you walk along the canal you will feel the pain and hear the silent sobs of Nahre Zainageer.

Indeed I have no words to explain. The banks of the canal was once the home to the famous Kashmiri willows but due to the lack of attention and the carelessness of the concerned authorities, there is nothing left for the purification. Trees are the main components which balance the ecology but now we have no place for them. Our water sources are drying at an alarming pace.

People are always self-centered. It is the Government which has to take the initiative to protect this dying heritage. Awareness campaigns are wasting of money and time. People are educated enough to understand the Heritage value. It is again the authorities who are in hibernation. Government is paying crores in the form of salary of the officers and guards to prevent the loot of natural resources. Then where is the flaw???  If this  present condition of the Nahre Zainageer remains as it is, there will be no Nahre Zaingeer after 10 years and obviously no agriculture in its vicinity. Please save your present for your future.                                                                                                                                                                                                


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