“The Recreational Rawalpora flood channel”

Arshad Dijoo

In uptown Srinagar unlike the north parts of the city there are limited waterbodies available naturally. And the conditions of the available bodies aren’t ideal as such.

While I visit the north part of the Srinagar city mostly in summers my cousin wakes me up early morning and pushes me along for a walk at the break of the dawn.
Living in Lal bazar and the foreshore road on the Dal side is their go go area be it any part of the day.
They relish their outings and timings are no bar.
Also sometimes we together visit the Nullah Sindh at Wayil in the nearby Ganderbal District.
Many times Harwan, Tailbal, Dara and many other places too.
But deep inside I often think what to boast about that what we have in comparison as the uptown residents of the city ?
Yes we had the sole river named Doodganga here which ironically is in a very bad shape for many years now.
Don’t we know how bad it’s condition is?
From Chadoora to down under all the harmul effluents are being poured into this waterbody.
It’s riverfronts are filled with pollutants and plastic waste.
Sadly many experts have already been ringing the alarm bells as we are seeing this river die a silent death.
Anyways scores of outings with my cousin made me realise that they indeed have an edge over us living in the uptown Srinagar.
The have lot of nearby natural hotspots to chill and retire. Unlike us.
And it took me a deep thought to realise that we have somewhat limited sources of recreation spots in the posh uptown locality. We can count some on the fingertips. Though we are are surrounded by the beautiful karewas.
Interesting for the huge catchment area of civil lines or the uptown as we call it, the entire population lacks notable recreation facilities.
Strangely people in the entire uptown areas either converge onto the local Sanat Nagar park in droves on early mornings for socialising and health walks or are seen loitering on dangerous bypass road to shed their excess weight.
Notably gauging these emergent public needs some years back government developed some concrete walking tracks on a portion of Doodganga Diversion Channel in the uptown Rawalpora-Peerbagh belt to provide a breather for the inhabitants living around a vast area.
The idea was to provide the health conscious residents an open air facility to stroll, jogg or simply walk through the colorfully laid tiled tracks on the Doodganga Diversion Channel on a long stretch.
And besides jogging for past many years now the people here have developed a taste and a keen eye for the natural life and aura provided by this vast stretch of Doodganga flood channel.
Increasingly all these years people in large numbers can be seen strolling the pavements laid on the sides of this waterbody.
And once you converge here you can not ignore some beautiful sightings.
The said flood channel is home to some exotic varieties of flora and fauna.
On early morning walks we can easily witness colourful waterbirds, Ducks, Drakes, Ducklings coming out of thick vegetational camouflage.
Some lay resting on the morning walk pavements looking for the sun to come out. While other waterbirds I have found busy bathing in this channel in the wee hours just like humans do to start their day.
Besides numerous colourful and dusky waterbirds continue to fly past this track leaving passersby breathless at the delightful sight.
Also the channel is abode to many varieties of fishes and other fauna upon which these waterbirds feed. And one can witness many a person busy with fishing rods on the sidetracks of this flood channel spending their leisure time.
But all this has been rapidly changing from past some years now.
As the population grew in the immediate catchment area so did the pollution levels.
There are numerous instances of direct disposal of plastic and other solid household wastes being dumped into this channel. Even concrete mortar residues one can see evidently lying everywhere on this Doodganga channel fronts.
Consequently the water has lost it’s quality and has turned more viscous and dark.
Now one can witness waterbirds soiled in dark filth on the sidelines.
Moreover they can hardly find food and insects or any small fish varieties.
Even for the past couple of years this spillover channel was emanating an irritating pungent smell that very less people now used to go for a walk on it’s banks.
I have seen this summer itself morning walkers covering their nose with an hankerchief to avoid the stench and running.
While on numerous occasions I have found people putting dirt directly into this water channel. And very easily such huge trash was visible in this waterbody.
Even I had heard the nearby residents intending to out-migrate.
While I regularly brought the bad condition of this waterbody into the notice of the administration thankfully there always used to be acknowledgement at their end and immediate patchwork remedial measures carried out.
But still the carried measures were a mismatch.
Now as the spoilage grew the concern of the officers grew manifold.
Hence they conceived a mega project to undertake the remedial measures on a larger canvas to save this diversion channel for public and environmental good.
In this regard it gives me immense pleasure to share that some weeks back this autumn the Flood Spill Channel Division Narabal has commenced a mega dredging and cleaning exercise project where men and machinery are busy in reclaiming this precious Doodganga flood Channel.
The project is under progress and may take more man-days and machine-days of work.
And this all is for our betterment and welfare and for safeguarding the faunal life.
Expectedly people have expressed gratitude to the government especially the residents of the catchment area who have been face to face to the foul smell entering their living rooms.
Pertinently as a whistle blower I have also been invited by the department to visit the spot many times for a feedback and so have been the nearby residents.
“It’s a collective responsibility of us all to save this diversion channel from any further ruin” emphasised Executive Engineer Flood Spill Channel Division Narabal Mr. Zaffar Mustafa.
“We need to be cognisant and ensure that no fellow citizen or the immediate resident pollutes this channel again” Zaffar added while personally monitoring the work at the site.
“Yes it’s is indeed imperative upon us all to take care of the nature around especially the waterbodies hosting vast faunal and floral varieties” I replied.
Later talking to many resident morning walkers at the Rawalpora-Peerbagh stretch I found them eagerly waiting for the spring season to arrive as they ready themselves enthusiastically for a magnificent morning and evening strolls on the flood diversion channel pathways.
And myself too I eagerly plan to invite my cousin from Lal bazar to my place so that next morning we wake up for a pristine morning walk on the Rawalpora flood diversion channel.
I too want to boast him of our recreational spots for evening and morning strolls through this water channel again abode to some diverse faunal varieties including the wild ducklings navigating in droves.
I want to see him impressed !
(Author is Gold Medalist in journalism and can be reached at [email protected])

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