The word spring comes from the German word springer, which refers to “leaping from the ground”. Without going much in scientific definitions, in simple terms it is any natural situation where water flows to the surface of the earth from underground.
During my Ph. D work, I have surveyed almost all the areas of Kashmir valley for collection of aquatic plants. In all the districts of Kashmir valley, I have experienced that small springs were the primary source of drinking water and even in most parts small springs water channels are the sole source of irrigation and for day to day use.
In some villages of Kashmir valley, where people use the spring waters for drinking purposes, I have recorded that in these water bodies the aquatic plants like Potamogeton crispus, Myriophyllum spicatum, Ceratophyllum demersum etc. are growing which act as biological filters and making the water more suitable for drinking purposes.
The best example is Anantnag town which use water of Sundoo-Brakapora springs for drinking purposes, I have recorded the growth of such aquatic macrophytes in these springs which are world-wide reported to be the best bio-filters; these plants not only absorb dirt from the water but are also capable to absorb heavy metals and other toxic substances from the water.
These fresh water resources are very important for both present and future generations. But unfortunately in short span of just one decade I have noticed that most of the springs has become extinct not because of some natural phenomenon or by climate change, glacier receding, etc. but only because of human greed.
In most of the places in Valley, the filling of these springs is one of the greatest threats to the existence of these prized gifts of nature.
Though there are some other threats which include deforestation, excessive tourist rush and unregulated flow of people in alpines particularly in the areas of glaciers and some unauthorized constructions in water bodies which affect the surface flow and also reduce the inter-connectivity between surface flows and groundwater storage but the land use change particularly the filling of springs are one of the major threats to springs of our Valley.
At some places in district Anantnag, I saw a chain of springs covering almost ½ sq.km area; but unfortunately these springs have been filled and converted into agriculture land in recent past.
Now there are some small scattered springs here and same story is applicable to all other districts of our Valley. The springs are filled either to covert the land for agricultural purposes or for constructional purposes.
In earlier times, springs were considered as scared places and people use to respect these places. Springs are locally (in Kashmiri) known as ‘Nag’; in Sanskrit the word ‘Nag’ means big snake and it was believed that these snakes used to guard the springs.
After globalization and neo-liberal world scenario Kashmir valley also witness drastic changes in terms of degrading human values and we ignore the lessons of our forefathers and everybody follow the made race of so called economic development. People for pity personal benefits played with nature and prized natural resources.
According to world’s water report 2016 Asian countries has the highest number of people in the world which don’t have access to safe drinking water and in the country like India where most of the people are living below poverty line are forced to collect dirty water from open ponds and rivers or to spend most of what they earn in buying water from tankers.
In Kashmir, still the condition are not so adverse and we take bottle water out of fashion but here I want to emphasize one thing that if the present trend of filling and polluting our water bodies remains with same pace then adverse condition are not far off.
The life without water is impossible and we will have drink and use water without thinking of our economy, for example in Papua New Guinea- ranked the most difficult and expensive place in the world to access clean water, forcing the poor to spend more than half their income on this essential resource.
In Papua New Guinea’s capital Port Moresby, it costs a person $2.63, almost 54% of a day’s earning of $5.15, to buy the recommended minimum 50 liters of water from a delivery service.
According to Climate Change Panel, it is certain that the global population will experience water scarcity throughout the 21st century. NASA recently came out with a mapped study revealing that 21 of the world’s major 37 water sources are distressed. More and more, people and nations will have to compete for water resources. As we are witnessing in our Valley as well the scuffle for drinking as well as for irrigation water.
At international level the dispute between Egypt and Ethiopia is on water, the conflict between Israel and Palestine is mainly on water resources. At national level two Indian states Karnataka and Tamilnadu are at each other’s throats on water dispute. It has been said the root cause of 3rd world war is going to be water not the oil and petrol.
In future, far more serious conflicts are likely to erupt as the planet dries up. Keeping in view the future importance of water and water resources China has diverted water from Tibet towards its major cities, the Western countries has developed road maps how to tackle the scarcity of water in future. But unfortunately our policy makers and people at helm of affairs are in deep slumber on this grave issue.
To devise a mechanism how to safe guard our future and make our state self-sufficient in terms of safe drinking water as well as for other purposes is need of the hour.
Nature has gifted our state with lot of water bodies the government should take concrete steps not only to safe guard these water bodies but also these water bodies should be restored to their original position in terms of area and pollution free environment around these prized ecosystems.
Some European countries have made a policy document how to make water a part of economic development. In our valley nature has gifted us with lot of water resources and if these water resources are utilized on sustainable manner they will provide employment to huge chunk of population at present and in future as well.
Some of our water bodies have even reported to have water with medicinal properties – Kokernag spring water is said to have quick digestive property.
The need our the hour is to protect these water resources for present and future generations and government should at least come up with some policy document which will indicate how to restore these water bodies to their original position and how to utilize them for sustainable development and how to use them for economic development of the state.
Dr. Aijaz Hassan Ganie
Author is Assistant Professor,
Department of Botany,
University of Kashmir, Kargil Campus.