Signifying non-seriousness of the Government to restore the Brari Nambal lagoon in Shaher-e-Khaas, the much-hyped conservation project to salvage the water body is yet to be accorded sanction.
The lagoon situated at the entrance of Shaher-e-Khaas is on the verge of extinction mainly due to encroachments and pollution. The problem has been compounded by failure of authorities to undertake its conservation— for past nearly three decades.
After years of inordinate delay, the Government last month had made a comprehensive project to undertake restoration of the lagoon. However, despite completion of all modalities, the project is yet to be accorded sanction. The project estimated at Rs 70.52 crore includes dredging, cleaning and shoreline development of the lagoon.
“We submitted the conservation project for the lagoon last month to the Housing and Urban Development Department. However, the department has not yet accorded sanction to it,” said a senior officer of the Lakes and Waterways Development Authority (LAWDA).
A senior officer of the Housing and Urban Development Department said the project has been sent to Development Commissioner Works for technical vetting. “It might take some time to approve the project as the experts have to examine its technical efficacy and funding pattern,” he added.
However, experts question the “inordinate delay” in approving the project. “It seems that the technical propositions of the much publicized project of Brari Nambal restoration which has been submitted to the Housing and Urban Development Department has again hit the red tape of bureaucratic clearance,” said noted environmentalist Aijaz Rasool
“Essential time in thus getting wasted for ecological conservation of the lagoon which remains to be now seen getting heavily polluted and grasping for its survival because of official apathy and neglect,” he added.
Experts maintain that the lagoon’s conservation project should be put in public domain for suggestions.
Officials said LAWDA had several years ago submitted a project of Rs 65 crore for acquiring land and Rs 90 crore for cleaning Brari Nambal to Government. “But it was shelved due to paucity of funds,” they said.
With previous regimes failing to conserve Brari Nambal, restoring glory of the lagoon has emerged as a litmus test for the Government. On June 14, the Minister for Roads and Buildings, Gardens, Parks and Floriculture, Muhammad Altaf Bukhari visited Brari Nambal and directed the Lakes and Waterways Development Authority (LAWDA) to prepare a comprehensive project within a month for restoration of the lagoon.
“Our government is committed to restore Brari Nambal to its pristine glory and make it one of the major landmarks of Shaher-e-Khaas. LAWDA has prepared a project in this regard. After technical clearance of the project, I will submit it to Chief Minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed for sanction. Before starting conservation of Brari Nambal, the CM might also visit the lagoon to assess its condition,” Altaf Bukhari had stated.
The lagoon is considered to be important as it helps to regulate hydrology of Dal by releasing its surplus waters into river Jhelum via a conduit at Fateh Kadal area. However, in absence of conservation measures by the successive regimes, the lagoon has turned into a cesspool. Piles of garbage, obnoxious weeds besides extensive encroachments from Baba demb side have severely affected its fragile eco-system.
Following a sustained campaign highlighting the lagoon’s deteriorating condition, the government in 2013 had ordered short term conservation measures including immediate cleaning, dredging, expansion and beautification. However, due to paucity of funds, the LAWDA and allied departments failed to launch conservation measures.
A separate restoration plan of Brari Nambal formulated by the Jammu and Kashmir Bank is also awaiting approval from the Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC). The expenditure was to be made by the J&K Bank under its corporate social responsibility 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 J&K Bank proposed to construct Rose Garden, English Garden, Bogon Velia Garden, Topeyari Garden, French Garden and Lilly Garden in it. It also proposed a children’s play area, water body with fountains, amphitheatre, walking and jogging tracks, boating and adventure zone court.
“We are examining the JK Bank’s plan. Simultaneously, we will seek an Expression of Interest from fresh water lake conservationists for improvement of Brari Nambal and its surroundings on the basis of land as per revenue records,” said Commissioner SMC Tufail Matoo.