Brari Nambal lagoon gasps for life, courtesy official apathy

Once known for crystal clear waters, BrariNambal lagoon of Dal Lake here is on the verge of extinction due to inordinate delay by the authorities to revive it to its pristine glory.  
Situated at the entrance of Shahr-e-Khaas (downtown Srinagar) at Baba Demb here, the lagoon till few decades ago was one of the major tourist attractions in the summer capital. However, due to failure of authorities to launch conservation measures, the lagoon has been marred by extensive pollution, siltation and encroachments. In the past over two decades, it has shrunk from five square kilometers to less than a square kilometer.   
Though the state government projected revival of BrariNambal as a model for Dal conservation, no concerted efforts have been made to salvage the lagoon.   
Following sustained campaign by Greater Kashmir on deterioration of BrariNambal, the government in October last year ordered short term conservation measures for it. Minister for Urban Development, NawangRigzinJora, had even chaired a meeting on October 15, 2013 directing immediate cleaning, dredging, expansion and beautification of the lagoon.
While the Lakes Waterways Development Authority (LAWDA), entrusted with Dal conservation, failed to undertake dredging, de-weeding and beautification of the lake, the Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) had earlier this year removed shanties from an encroached portion of the lagoon.
Experts said there is immediate need to improve water quality of the lagoon by undertaking dredging and removing obnoxious weeds. 
“It is ironical that authorities are resorting to dilly-dallying tactics to restore the lagoon. Pollution and siltation has drastically affected its eco-system. Further delay can cause irreparable damage to it. It is high time for the government to make intervention before the lagoon turns into a marsh,” said environmentalist and hydraulic engineer, AijazRasool. 
He warned that high level of pollution in the lagoon can also be detrimental for Dal lake in case of reverse flow of polluted waters into the water body. The lagoon acts as an outflow channel of Dal Lake and carries surplus waters into river Jhelum through FatehKadal conduit. 
The lagoon was an example of the engineering excellence of King Zainulabidin, popularly known as Budshah. Before the government filled up the Nallah Mar, a serpentine waterway which passed through Shahr-e-Khaas. It was the main outflow channel of the Dal Lake and helped regulate water level in the lake and save its dwellers from floods. However, closure of the Nallah Mar channel over four decades ago left BrariNambal stagnated. It took the government decades to construct an underground conduit through FatehKadal to pave way for its water to flow into river Jhelum. 
In 2003, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Conservation and Management of Dal and Nigeen Lake had recommended immediate measures including restoration of BrariNambal and relocation of its dwellers. Despite passing of a decade since then, the successive regimes have failed to take any conservation measure.
In 2010, the state government lost a golden opportunity when it ignored a comprehensive plan by a consortium of leading environmental foreign companies that wanted to restore and develop the lagoon as a heritage water body as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). 
LAWDA maintains that conservation of BrariNambal is not part of Dal Conservation Project. “Last year we had submitted a comprehensive project for restoration of BrariNambal to the state government. Though the project estimated at Rs 19.12 crores has been vetted by joint commissioner works, the sanction has not been accorded yet,” a senior official of LAWDA said. 
Commissioner Secretary to Housing and Urban Development Department, Satish Nehru, acknowledged delay in restoration of the lagoon. “However, we have resolved all issues now. We will soon launch long term conservation measures to restore the lagoon,” he said.

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