Author Archives: shahishaharyar

About shahishaharyar

Chartered civil engineer,Fellow institution of engineers India, Member Indian road congress,Member American society of civil engineers, Presented over 70 papers in various seminars,published books over 36 on environment,history, sufi saints, genealogy,free lance writer, travelled in India and abroad.

A hair-breadth escape

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A few days back, my spouse had a dream seeing, “The contents of our refrigerator with open doors being picked up by eagles, crows, and other birds. Meanwhile, my late mother comes and asks her to distribute tahri”- rice cooked with turmeric and usually distributed as a charity to avoid a catastrophe or for having escaped from a misfortune. Since our kitchen was under renovation the wish could not be fulfilled, instead, some money was distributed among some poor people.

Next day morning I left my home with Dr. Shuja who was to attend his duties in the hospital. He was driving his Chevrolet car. On covering a kilometer, we were advised not to follow the usual route as some disturbance was reported to be there. We picked up another person who was on his way to the hospital. After covering a kilometer we tracked a link road leading to our hospital road. All traffic was moving to and fro in the normal manner. Just before reaching another three-way junction, we found a procession of over thousand angry boys carrying the dead body of a youth ascribed to have been killed by armed forces. The youth were pelting stones on vehicles finding these as soft targets, irrespective of the consideration that the inmates of the vehicles may get injured. It was all aimless action inviting serious criticism of the resistance movement. The vehicles in front of us chose to rush through the left track but were followed by the stone pelters. We stopped to re-trace, but alas! there was a fleet of cars behind us who too were targeted with stones. We being at the forefront were worst hit. I was witness to four bricks striking against front windscreen that got splintered and bent. Meanwhile, the person sitting at our back ran out and escaped scot free. The boys attacked from all sides with bricks in their hands. With window glasses broken the bricks landed inside our car. It was risky to come out of the car as the flying stones and bricks could strike one’s head and the body causing instantaneous death or severe injury. One of the boys jumped on the roof of the car and started pounding it with his feet. Meanwhile, we managed to get down the car, crying we are doctors, for which these boys intoxicated with revenge did not bother. It all seemed to be an aimless reaction with no direction. It was not understood what the fun of attacking one’s own people was. Perhaps vehicles are found to be soft targets, but attacking their own people is going to defeat the very purpose of the resistance movement. Many such incidents have occurred when innocent people caught in the surprise traps had fatal injuries. We continued to remain in the shock of the incident for many days thereafter.

Illegal Trade in Wild Life

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Wildlife trade: what is it?

Wild life trade is any sale or exchange of wild animal and plant resources by people. This can involve live animals and plants or a diverse range of products needed or prized by humans—including skins, medicinal ingredients, tourist curios, timber, fish and other food products. Most wildlife trade is probably within national borders, but there is a large volume of wildlife in trade internationally.

Why?
There are many reasons why wildlife is traded, including:

food—fruits, mushrooms, nuts, leaves and tubers, are particular important resources in sustaining livelihoods in many rural areas. Wild animals (including fish) contribute at least a fifth of the animal protein in rural diets in more than 60 countries. A TRAFFIC study demonstrated reliance on wild meat is growing in Eastern and Southern Africa in response to increased human populations and poverty.

fuel—trees and plants are an important source of fuel for cooking and heating, especially in rural areas

fodder—considered very important non-wood forest products in arid regions of Asia and Africa

building materials—for example, timber for furniture and housing to ingredients in manufacturing processes, such as gums and resins

clothing and ornaments—leather, furs, feathers, ivory etc

sport—from falconry to trophy hunting

healthcare— everything from herbal remedies, traditional medicines to ingredients for industrial pharmaceuticals. An estimated 80 % of the world’s population are said to rely for primary health care on traditional medicines

religion—many animals and plants or derivatives are used for religious purposes;

collections—many wildlife specimens and curios are collected by museums and private individuals

The primary motivating factor for wildlife traders is economic, ranging from small scale local income generation to major profit-oriented business, such as marine fisheries and logging companies.

Between collectors of wildlife and the ultimate users, any number of middlemen may be involved in the wildlife trade, including specialists involved in storage, handling, transport, manufacturing, industrial production, marketing, and the export and retail businesses.

In fact most of us are involved in wildlife trade in some way, even if it just as end consumers of wildlife products.

Scale
The wildlife trade involves hundreds of millions of individual plants and animals from tens of thousands of species and seafood are the most important categories of international wildlife trade, in terms of both volume and value. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), more than $100 billion of fish were traded and nearly $200 billion timber in 2009. To put this into perspective, in the same year, the global trade value of tea, coffee and spices all together was $24.3 billion.

It is estimated that 70 000 species of plant are used for medicinal purposes alone.  Additionally, approximately 25% of ‘modern’ pharmacy medicines have been developed based on the medicinal properties of wild species. Little is known about the status of many of these species, although those that have been assessed show a concerning picture.

“Recently a citizen of China passed away at the age of 256 years, who has been using wild herbs as his food and was dealing in the same trade. He in turn had seen a person of the age of 500 years, who had taught him the use of herbs for remaining healthy besides achieving longevity.”

International trade in species of conservation concern is monitored by CITES. From 2005 – 2009, CITES recorded an annual average of more than 317,000 live birds, just over 2 million live reptiles, 2.5 million crocodilian skins, 1.5 million lizard skins, 2.1 million snake skins, 73 tonnes of caviar, 1.1 million coral pieces and nearly 20,000 hunting trophies.

Not all trade is legal of course: between 2005 and 2009 EU enforcement authorities made over 12,000 seizures of illegal wildlife products in the EU.

Value: In the early 1990s, TRAFFIC estimated the value of legal wildlife products imported globally was around USD160 billion. In 2009, the estimated value of global imports was over USD323 billion. 

TRAFFIC estimated the legal trade of wildlife products into the EU alone was worth an estimated €93 billion in 2005 and this increased to nearly €100 billion in 2009.

By its very nature, it is almost impossible to obtain reliable figures for the value of illegal wildlife trade, but the figure must run into hundreds of millions of dollars. The value of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fisheries alone has been estimated as between USD10-23 billion per year (MRAG & FERR, 2008), while the value of the illegal international timber trade has been estimated as USD7 billion per year, and the illegal wildlife trade, excluding timber and fisheries as USD7.8-10 billion per year (GFI, 2011).

Problems
As human populations have grown, so has the demand for wildlife. People in developed countries have become used to a lifestyle which fuels demand for wildlife; they expect to have access to a variety of seafoods, leather goods, timbers, medicinal ingredients, textiles etc. Conversely, extreme poverty of others means they regard wildlife as a means to meet their short-term needs and will trade it for whatever they can get.

Over-exploitation is a major concern:

Wildlife is vital to a high proportion of the world’s population. People depend directly on wildlife for consumption and as a way of earning cash. However, irresponsible wildlife trade is threatening this resource, and those most affected tend to be the poorest people, in developing nations.

Illegal wildlife trade causes additional problems. The species traded are often already highly threatened and in danger of extinction, conditions under which wildlife is transport are often appalling, operators are unscrupulous and do not care how they damage the environment (for example they use cyanide to kill fish, or log in protected areas; illegal trade undermines nations’ efforts to manage their natural resources sustainably and causes massive economic losses in lost earnings. It is often said that illegal wildlife trade is the third most valuable illicit commerce behind drugs and arms.

Introducing invasive species that prey upon, or out- compete native species. Invasive species are a major cause of recent extinctions. Wildlife traders have purposely introduced any invasive species, such as American Mink, Red-eared Terrapin and many plant species.

Hotspots
There are certain places where wildlife trade is particularly threatening called “wildlife trade hotspots”. They include China’s international borders, trade hubs in East/Southern Africa and South-east Asia, the eastern borders of the European Union, some markets in Mexico, parts of the Caribbean, parts of Indonesia and New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands.

Response
TRAFFIC seeks and activates solutions to the problems created by illegal and unsustainable wildlife trade. Our aim is to encourage sustainability by providing decision-makers, traders and others involved in wildlife trade reliable information about the environmental harm irresponsible trade can cause, and present guidance on how to counteract it.

Legislation is a vital way to control wildlife trade, but to be successful, laws need to be widely understood, accepted and practical to apply. A major part of TRAFFIC’s programme is working closely with law makers, law enforcers and the judiciary, to ensure appropriate laws are in place, are fully understood by those enforcing them and transgressors receive appropriate penalties.

 J&K Wildlife Protection Act

The Jammu and Kashmir wildlife (Protection) act was enacted in 1978 to meet the objectives contained therein. Since the creation of full-fledged department of Wildlife Protection, in 1982 the state government has taken as series of majors for conservation of forest/ protected areas and the wildlife therein. The state government has not notified about 16000 sq. kms as the protected area network (PAN) which is being managed through anti poaching/ anti grazing activities, habitat management, plantation, soil and water conservation, fire protection, development of infrastructure, providing supplemental feed etc. prior to this J&K Game Preservation Department has been created under Game Preservation Act, 1942 to protect and preserve the Game “In the state” which include the few species of wild animals and birds considered to be important from hunting point of view as a sport. The state has amended the J&K wildlife protection act of 1978 on the lines of Indian wildlife protection act 1972. The schedule have been revised and now there is complete ban on hunting and no. on endangered species of wild animals and plants have been brought to the Schedule-I and Schedule-IV of the act to afford them utmost protection. Apart from this wild plants have also been brought within the preview of this act.

Functions and Responsibilities

  • Management and Habitat improvement of Protected Areas
  • Law enforcement/ Wildlife Crime check
  • Wildlife Management plans Formulation and implement thereof
  • Captive breeding, Zoos and Zoological parks
  • Research and training programmes
  • Species recovery programmes

Wildlife Species

List of important Wildlife Species of J&K and their status as per IUCN’s Red Data Book / J&K Wildlife Protection Act, 1978 (Amended upto 2002):

S.No Species Region Status as per IUCN’s Red Data Book Status as per Wildlife Protection Act
1) Snow Leopard Ladakh, Kashmir & Jammu Endangered Schedule I
2) Common Leopard Jammu, Kashmir & Ladkah Near Threatened Schedule – I / Endangered
3) Black Bear Kashmir & Jammu Vulnerable Schedule – II
4) Brown Bear Ladakh, Kashmir & Jammu Least Concern Schedule – I / Endangered
5) Ibex Ladakh, Kashmir & Jammu Least Concern Schedule – I / Endangered
6) Himalayan tahr Jammu Near Threatened Schedule – I / Endangered
7) Spotted Deer Jammu Least Concern Schedule – III
8) Barking Deer Jammu Least Concern Schedule – III
9) Goral Jammu Near Threatened Schedule – I
10) Markhor Kashmir & Jammu Endangered Schedule – I / Critically Endangered
11) Serow Kashmir & Ladakh Near threatened Schedule – I / Endangered
12) Hangul Kashmir Least Concern Schedule – I / Critically Endangered
13) Musk Deer Jammu, Kashmir & Ladakh Endangered Schedule – I / Endangered
14) Chiru (Tibetan Antelope) Ladakh Endangered Schedule – I / Critically Endangered
15) Tibetan gazelle Ladakh Near Threatened Schedule – I / Endangered
16) Nayan (Tibetan Sheep) Ladakh Schedule – I
17) Wild Yak Ladakh Vulnerable Schedule – I
18) Pallas Cat Ladakh Schedule – I
19) Black Necked Crane Ladakh Vulnerable Schedule – I
20) Golden Eagle Kashmir, Ladakh & Jammu Least Concern Schedule – I / Endangered
21) Cheer Pheasant Kashmir, Jammu Vulnerable Schedule – I / Endangered

(Data Source: Annual Administration Report 2011-12, J&K Forest Department)

THE ILLEGAL IVORY TRADE:

  • Asia’s greed for ivory puts African elephant at risk Slaughter by poachers intensifies as governments seek to increase legal sales
  • There has been a massive surge in illegal ivory trading, researchers warned. They have found that more than 14,000 products made from the tusks and other body parts of elephants were seized in 2009, an increase of more than 2,000 on their previous analysis in 2007.
  • Details of this disturbing rise have been revealed on the eve of the 20th anniversary of the world ivory trading ban. Implemented on 18 January 1990, it was at first credited with halting the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of elephants.
  • But the recent growth in the far east’s appetite for ivory – a status symbol for the middle classes of the region’s newly industrialised economies – has sent ivory prices soaring from £150 a kilogram in 2004 to more than £4,000.
  • At the same time, scientists estimate that between 8% and 10% of Africa’s elephants are now being killed each year to meet the demand. The world’s largest land animal is again threatened with widespread slaughter.
  • “It is a really worrying situation,” said Richard Thomas, director of Traffic, the group that monitors trade in wildlife. “However, it is not absolutely clear what should be done.” Indeed, the issue is so confused that a conflict over the ivory trade is expected at March’s meeting of Cites, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.
  • A key source of contention will be the future of legitimate stockpile sales of ivory that have been permitted by international agreement. Killing elephants for their tusks is illegal, but selling ivory from animals that have died of natural causes has been permitted on occasions. In 2008 a stockpile of tusks – from Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe – was bought by dealers from China and Japan. The sale, of 105,000 kilograms of ivory, raised more than £15m.
  • But now countries including Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo are to call for a ban of these stockpile sales at the Cites meeting. They say such trade – albeit sporadic – only increases demand for ivory goods and is responsible for triggering the recent rise in illegal trade and the killing of thousands of elephants across Africa.
  • This point is backed by shadow environment secretary Nick Herbert, who recently returned from a visit to study the impact of ivory poaching in India. “On the 20th anniversary of the international ban on the ivory trade, we should be taking a stand,” he said last week. “Instead of flooding the market with more ivory and legitimising the trade, we should be choking demand, not stoking it.”
  • But countries such as Tanzania and Zambia, which have some of the worst poaching records in Africa, want a relaxation of ivory trade regulations at Cites so they can hold their own stockpile sales. They say the tens of millions of pounds that can be raised will help them fund rangers who can protect their elephants.
  • “Unfortunately the evidence is not clear whether stockpile sales increase demand for ivory or help to control it,” said Heather Sohl of the WWF. “We have had recent stockpile sales of ivory – and poaching has increased dramatically. But other factors may be involved. Many African countries are suffering terrible drought and local people are desperate. Killing elephants brings money, alas.”
  • Killing for tusks is a particularly gruesome trade. Elephants are intelligent animals whose sophisticated social ties are exploited by poachers. They will often shoot young elephants to draw in a grieving parent, which is then killed for its ivory. Estimates suggest more than 38,000 elephants were killed this way in 2006: the death rate is higher today.

BREAKING NEWS: At least 40 dead baby tigers uncovered at infamous Tiger Temple

By Coconuts Bangkok June 1, 2016 / 12:56 ICT

  • The rows of tiny bodies were lined up in pictures and look like they may have been killed recently.
  • This comes alongside reports that other animal parts have been found inside the temple as well.
  • The story broke mid-morning on Twitter when photojournalistDario Pignatelli posted a photo of the tiny tiger remains.

Thai DNP officers show 40 undeclared dead baby tigers found at 9:01 AM – 1 Jun 2016

  • A Khaosod English reporteron the scene saw animal entrails in containers, animal horns, a skull and an entire boar corpse.
  • The tiger temple is in the midst of havingtheir 147 resident tigers removed after years of accusations of animal abuse, drugging, trafficking and more. The temple denies the claims. Since Monday, 40 tigers had already been moved to new homes at Ratchaburi’s wildlife breeding research station.
  • If the baby tigers are recent kills, it would reflect very poorly on the temple and seemingly support claims against the temple that they were involved in illegal practices with the tigers to make profits.
  • The temple management, Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua Yanasampanno, has fought the Department of National Parks for years over the tigers. They began to relent this week when the department secured a court order.
  • They haven’t completely relented though. The temple gates were locked tight when they showed up to take the first three tigers on Monday,Khaosod English

Related:

Vanishing Medicinal Plants of Kashmir Himalayas

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RED ALERT: The practice of using local herbs as medicinal remedies for a variety of health conditions is widely known in India. It is a knowledge that has been acknowledged by the world as India’s Ayurvedic medicine tradition. Even as modern drugs gain popularity, the tradition of using herbs to cure a headache, a cough, or a serious ailment like cancer still exists. But researchers from the flora-rich valley of Kashmir find how threats like tourism, overharvesting, even smuggling of herbs has led to the decrease in local medicinal plants in the last few years. Now these life-saving plants, need a safety net themselves.

This is a guest post by study authors Dr. Aijaz Hassan Ganie and Mr. Bilal A Tali, research fellows in Department of Botany, University of Kashmir. The present study was under Special Assistance Programme (SAP), Department of Botany, University of Kashmir.

Kashmir Himalaya harbours diverse habitats which support a rich floristic wealth that has been used as a resource-base by its people since times immemorial. Indeed Kashmir is known for its economically valued plants and their products, such as medicine, food, fodder, fibre etc. Owing to the rich and unique floristic diversity, a good proportion of plants are used as medicine in one or other form. The ethnic use of some of these herbs in medicine through folklore as well as in the documented form dates back to 3000-1000 BC and was in all probability the only means of curing and/or protecting the human population from various diseases. The therapeutic properties of these herbs is reflected from the view that most of these possess the bioactive principles, anti-cancer as well as anti-ageing (anti-oxidant) properties apart from antipyretic, asthmatic, diuretic and other properties.

Our present study revealed that about 650 plant species are being used as medicine in one or other form in Kashmir Himalaya. However, over the decades, a large number of these species have been rendered threatened due to various anthropogenic as well as natural threats.

Up to the year 2012, our research team have recorded 11 different types of threats operative to medicinal plants in Kashmir Himalaya which include, over-grazing, grass cutting, landslides/soil erosion, constructional activities /unplanned development, floods/flash floods, over exploitation/overharvesting, cement factory dust, mining/stone quarrying, conversion of forests and grasslands into agricultural land/ land use changes, alien species invasion and huge tourist influx.

Overgrazing – Overgrazing is the predominant threat as the grazing animals damage the flowering spikes of the Medicinal Aromatic plant species (MAPs) and thereby restrict their population size and distribution; the best examples are species of the genus Inula, Fritillaria, Corydalis, Rheum, Saussurea etc.

corydallis sp.

Overharvesting – These medicinal plant species are also overharvested legally or illegally from the wild for local use, the examples are Rheum webbianum, Arnebia benthamii, Picrorhiza  kurroa etc.

Unplanned development and Tourist inflow – The construction of roads and buildings along with the trampling by the locals and tourists have negatively impacted the populations of various MAPs. Cutting down of forests at an unprecedented rate have drastically decreased the population of MAPs due to their habitat destruction (e.g. Different Orchid species, Podophyllum hexandrum, Atropa acuminata, Skimmia anquetilia etc.). The deforestation not only causes habitat loss, but also it results in habitat fragmentation, diminishing patch size and core area, and isolation of suitable habitats.

The unplanned development which include: construction of roads and buildings poses threat to different MAPs (e.g. Arisaema jacquemontii, Lavatera kashmiriana, Taxus wallichiana, Hyoscyamus niger etc.).

Landslides/flash floods – Eruption of landslides in the natural habitats is another threat to the existence of these species. A major portion of the flora in Kashmir Himalaya is subjected to the threat of landslides (e.g.  Ajuga bracteosa., Thymus spp.,  Tussilago farfara,  etc.).   The flash floods are operative threat to Digitalis and Caltha sp.

Exotic species – The invasion of exotic species particularly Anthemis cotula is threat to Cotula anthemoides. The land use change is another threat to MAPs, the species under this threat are: Inula racemosa, Colchicum luteum, Gagea gageoides etc.

Colchicum luteum

In addition to 11 threats operative in Kashmir Himalaya the intensive field surveys carried out during the present study revealed that 2 more threats, namely smuggling/ illegal trade and unregulated research work, have more impact than the aforementioned threats, and these threats have brought some of the MAPs on the verge of extension in Kashmir Himalaya.

Illegal trade – From Kupwara to Banihal, Shopian to Marwaha Wadwan, people are extracting the medicinal plants for illegal trade. The species which were smuggled at an alarming rate include:  Trillidium govanianum locally known as ‘Tripater’, Aconitum heterophyllun vernacular name ‘Patris/ Patis’, Fritillaria roylei commonly known as ‘Sheethkar’ and Picrorhiza kurrooa Kashmiri name ‘Koad’. The locals were observed extracting these plant species at the time of flowering and when asked why the herb was being dug at this stage they told us that they had been instructed by the contractor.

This practice not only removes the plant from its natural habitat, it also reduces the chances of the seed formation thus hampering increase in plant population.

It was also observed that a plant species Trillidium govanianum evaluated according to IUCN Regional Guidelines, as Least Concern (LC) in 2012,  had due to recent indiscriminate extraction now become threatened.

Trillidium govanianum, a species considered Least Concern may be threatened now according to the researchers

Unregulated research – The present study also revealed that unregulated research work in different institutes of the state have also rendered some of these MAPs threatened, particularly phytochemical studies for which a lot of plant material is needed. The medicinal plant species, namely Gentiana kurroo, Aquilegia nivalis, Atropa acuminata, Aconitum heterophyllum etc. are under tremendous threat from such type of studies.

A regulatory mechanism is needed at the institutional level, particularly at the time of assigning research problem to the student, and it is also the duty of Departmental Research Committees (DRCs) to evaluate the synopsis and also see the pros and cones of the assigned research problem.

The shrinking populations of MAPs is a matter of great concern as these plants are backbone of our traditional medicinal system with a large population still depending on traditional medicine. In addition, extinction of these plant species may also lead to ecological imbalance.

The Valley of Kashmir known for its beauty all over the world is also rich in herbal and floral wealth. The interest in knowing and admiring the plants in Kashmir has existed since times immemorial. In Kalhana’s Rajtarangini (1149-50 A.D.) we find mention of preservation of plants and plant products for medicinal purposes. Huien Tsang, who visited, “Kashmir yields saffron, lenses and medicinal Plants.” Sir Walter Lawrence in his “Valley of Kashmir” has observed that “Kashmiris turn nearly every plant to some use and attribute medicinal properties to every growing thing.”

Ayurvedic medicines have been in vogue in Kashmir since early times. Dridhabala an ancient physician of Kashmir is believed to have revised “Agnivesa Sambita” a monumental work on Ayurvedic system written by Kanishka’s court physician Charaka. The medicinal properties of various plants after having been ascertained in early times passed from generation to generation as trade secrets. Now such a stage has come when the common people scarcely have knowledge of medicinal properties of these plants since modern methods of chemical treatment have replaced the old indigenous methods employed by native Hakims.

Col. Sir R.N.Chopra, pioneer of Drug Research Laboratory (established in 1942) has recorded that “nearly three-fourth of the drugs used in the pharmacopoeias of the world grow in a state of nature in Jammu and Kashmir and as many as 42 essential oil-bearing plants are grown in the State. The standard of their principles is excellent and compared with the drugs grow else-where.” I have made an attempt to enumerate the plants which possess medicinal properties. It is based on sources such as “Forest Products of Kashmir,” by S. N. Koul, the then Conservator of Forest, 1928, “Valley of Kashmir” by Sir Walter Lawrence, 1895, “Wild Flowers of Kashmir,” by B.O. Coventry, 1923, “Gazetteer of Kashmir” by Charles Ellison Bates, 1873 etc.

A brief description of some of the medicinal plants found in Kashmir:-

KUTH – Its Sanskrit name Kashmirja implies its being indigenous to Kashmir. It is about five feet long herb growing along the higher elevations particularly at Tilel, Karnah. Kuth has been used in Indian medicine since early times. Its roots when dug up are cut into pieces, and used as aromatic, stimulant, stomachic and so on. Kuth root when pounded and mixed with sessanum oil is applied to a rheumatic limb. One part of powdered root when mixed with three parts of sugar is believed to cure stomach ulcers. Kuth was largely used in China and Japan. Stewart in his book on “Punjab Plants” published in 1864 informs us that in the year 1836 nearly 7000, mounds of Kuth were exported from Kolkata to China.

VIRKUM- The plant is found commonly near Srinagar-Tragbal and other areas. Its golden yellow flowers are the earliest ones to blossom in spring in Kashmir. Its fleshy underground corn and seed are used in medicines. Seeds and corn are collected in April and May respectively. Colchicines a well known remedy for gout and rheumatism is extracted from these parts of the plant.

TETHWEN- It is a white hoary shrub abundant in Kashmir. Santonin extracted from the plant is now well known as a vermicide. In 1924, Santonin was exported from Kashmir @ Rs 720 per Kg.

PYRETHRUM- Pyrethrum could be successfully cultivated in Kashmir after a few seeds were imported from Vilinorin, Paris in 1936. In 1945 its cultivation was extended to over two thousand acres of land with the sale proceeds of its yield at about two lacs of rupees. Pyrethrum is a well known insecticide and has also been employed in destroying farm insect and pests.

JOGI BADSHAH It is called the king of plants of the Yogis. It is a six inch high rare herb found at the elevations above 13,000 feet. Its red-purple flowers blossom in September and October. The large ball of pappus at the apex of the plant when boiled in milk and drunk is said to be a tonic. A decoction of its root in milk is said to be a cure for snake-bites, plague and all women ailments.

MAHA GUNAS- It is beautiful plant about two feet high found growing at Khilan Marg. From a distance it looks like a cobra. Its tuberous roots when pounded and mixed with Vaseline are said to sooth pain. It can also be applied to boils.

BUNAFSHA- It is found throughout the Valley particularly in meadows. Its flowers are used in Unani medicine as a cooling agent and in bilious disorders. Lawrence has recorded that these tiny flowers “used to be exchanged for their weight in salt.”

KAHZABAN- It is found frequently in Gurez and other higher elevations. The plant is used in Kashmir extensively by the Hakims in fever, throat diseases etc.

MAIT-BRAND- It is found all over Kashmir forests, particularly at Gulmarg and Lolab. From the leaves and roots of this tall herbaceous plant is derived Atropine. It is a powerful sedative and reliever of pain. A liniment made from the roots is a valuable application in case of rheumatism and neuralgic pains.

HUND- It is a herb found everywhere in the Valley particularly in meadows. In Kashmir homes it is a common practice to cook its green leaves and eat as a vegetable. Also these leaves are given to mothers after they deliver a baby. It has been found useful in Jaundice, and Dyspepsia.

BUMPOSH- It is found in Dal Lake and other marshes. Its root stock is green in dysentery and its white flowers are often used by the native Hakims and diaphoretic increasing perspiration.

SHAH TAR- The plant is found common at all elevations particularly in wheat fields. Entire plant is used as blood purifier in skin diseases. Its sharbat is also given in case of fevers.

CHARI LACHHIJ- The plant is very common and its seed is utilized as an expectorant and to give strength.

KHULFA- It is found all over the Valley and is commonly used in Unani medicines. Its seeds are diuretic (Increasing flow of urine) and astringent (arresting diarrhea).

BRED MUSHIK- It is both cultivated and growing wild in the Valley. Araq distilled from its sweet scented flowers is prized as a medicine being stimulant.

VAI- It is found in lakes. The root stock when taken in large doses induces vomiting. Otherwise it is stomachic

.VANWANGAN- It is common at Gurez and Gulmarg. Its berries are eaten as fruit. While as its roots yield Podophyllum resin.

BANBALNAG- It grows at high altitudes from 8,000 to 12,000, feet especially on Gilgit road and Khilan Marg. The alkaloid named Indaconitine is derived from its tuberous roots which are collected in summer for the purpose. Aconite is one of the oldest medicines used by Physicians in India in the treatment of fever and rheumatism and as a remedy for cough, asthma and snake-bites.

Besides the aforesaid plants there are much more such as PATHIS used in diarrhea, KAODACH from the stem and bark of which is extracted Rasaut to be used in skin diseases etc. BAZAR BANG from the leaves and seeds of which is extracted Hyoscyamine, and so on. The native hakims regard Pedulivium of the leaves of commonly found willow tree, as very efficacious in Cholera.

The medicinal properties of various herbs and flowers growing in Kashmir need to be publicized so that the local inhabitants particularly villages would not let these plants fall in waste due to lack of awareness. And there is need for saving this God gifted natural resource of Kashmir from smugglers and a wide programme needs to be launched by the government for their proper retrieval and sale which can become useful for the economy of Kashmir.

In a recent TV programme I heard a master chef from J&K stated that he found a brand of tea much in demand in 5-star hotels. On his investigation he found that it is the wild “Soi” leaves grown in the streets of Kashmir and after processing it comes in packs called NATAL tea. Incidentally I remember that the “soi” leaves were used to heal boils in my childhood days.

Jhelum floods and Dredging in Kashmir

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The Institution of Engineers (India), J&K State Center

Seminar on Jhelum Dredging Project and Floods of Sept-14 in Kashmir on 7th May, 2016

Jhelum floods and Dredging in Kashmir

By

                                                                              Er. Mohammad Ashraf Fazili FIE

                                                                                    (Former Chief Engineer)

 

The parent stream of the river Jhelum has its source in a noble spring (Verinag) of deep blue water at the bottom of a spur in the Pir Panjal, just below the Jawahar Tunnel connecting the main highway, wherefrom the beautiful octagonal spring is seen like an emerald set in green pines. An important source of river Jhelum is the lake Sheshnag at the head of Liddar tributary. The river Jhelum is a tributary river par excellence. It is joined by Veshav, Rambiara, Romshi, Sukhnag, Dudganga, Tel-bal Nalla flowing into the Dal Lake and thence via Tsunti Khul and also through Brari Numbal besides the Sind through Anchar Lake (now turned swamp). The Dal Lake forms the flood lung of the Jhelum, taking in reverse flows from Jhelum when it floods. The flood spill channel was constructed in the year 1904 to relieve the river of the strain while it passes through the city of Srinagar. The spill channel was designed to take one third of the total flow of the river. The Jhelum flows in loops over river plains apparently quite leveled and gentle slopes. Anantnag is 94 meters higher than Srinagar and Sopore is 34 meters lower than Srinagar. The Jhelum drains off the whole valley of Kashmir catering the whole catchment area and is the most westerly of the five rivers of Punjab.

The Wular is the largest fresh water lake in India, 16 Kms. long and 7.6 Kms wide. The river Jhelum enters it from the Southeast and leaves it to the west near Sopore, which is a typical delta formed by the silt. Small streams like Habuja, Anrah, Erin, Pohru, and Madhumati at Bandipur flow into the lake. The river Jhelum becomes shallow and sand banks appear in the river bed obstructing navigation. It is only in spring (May-July) that rainfall causes the snow to melt at higher elevations on the surrounding mountains and cause floods. The river Jhelum has been described as both a blessing and as a curse in floods.

Beyond Baramgul at Baramulla where the river is hardly 30 meters wide and 3 meters deep flowing between steep mountains, the Jhelum enters a narrow gorge through which it flows a distance of 128 kms. till it reaches Muzaffarabad (Domel) to join the river Kishen Ganga, which drains the northern rim of the Kashmir basin in Telal, Gurez and Sharda. At Uri the river changes its course and flows in through mountain ranges towards Muzaffarabad (1543 meters) with a fall of 1: 160.

The river Jhelum is a trough formed between the Great Himalayan range and the Pir Panjal range. Oval in shape, the diameter of the valley runs parallel to the general direction of the two ranges of about 230 Kms. The alluvium, with which the valley is filled, has a depth of 6000 ft. which according to geologists gave shape to a unique geometric character in the form of lacustrine and fluvatile karewas bordering the margins of the mountains surrounding the valley. The river Jhelum passes through Muzaffarabad and forms one of the five tributaries of Indus River in Punjab Pakistan.

The river banks on the right side are closer as compared to ones at the left side, with the Khadanyar Mountain. A differential elevation of 24 meters from Khanabal to Khadanyar is recorded. A varying river-bed slope is assumed over the whole length of the river between 1/8000 to 1/12000, thereby having a gentle slope across the length which over a period has changed due to siltation.

 

Kashmir Floods- a chronology.

Kashmiris have faced floods since the very beginning of life in valley. Over the years, many measures were adopted to confine floods, but it is unfortunate that the authorities never devised a serious strategy to safeguard the lives and property. The last deluge in Sept.-14 is one such instance that highlighted a lapse in state government’s preventive measures.

Authorities must plan to tackle natural calamities by learning from the successful models of other nations. If Netherlands can remain safe below the sea level, why can’t we protect our valley from the catastrophe that has been striking us every now and then?

But yes, the last floods have provided us an opportunity to rise to the occasion and give top priority—first, to rehabilitation of the flood victims; and next, to reform the Master Plan for floods on the advice of the expert consultants and adopt measures without loss of any time.

We should stay alarmed as ours is a ‘flooded’ history.

  • 4000 years of flood history say: these floods were caused due to rains. Only two major floods occurred due to earthquakes.
  • In 2014 BC, the era of Raja Sundar Sen (2083-2042 BC), earthquake struck in the night time; and old city of Sindmat Nagar sank underground. Water gushed forth from bottom and Wullar lake came into being. Rock fell at Khadanyar Baramulla. As a result, valley got drowned up to Bijbehara in south Kashmir. Boatmen would see the rooftops under water for a long time.
  • In the era of Raja Durlab Dron (617-635 AD) during 7th century AD, Jhelum breached its banks. It changed its direction at Nawpopra and entered the valley of Vital Marg and gave birth to Dal Lake.
  • During 8th century AD in the era of Lalitaditya (715-752 AD), incessant rains submerged the whole city including Raj Mahal, which was shifted to Letapora. Hundreds of houses were washed away by floods in Srinagar.
  • In the period Raja Avantiverman (872-900 AD) in 9th century AD, an earthquake struck valley. Rocks came close at Khadanyar. The entire area got drowned up to Bijbehara, causing famine. An ingenious scheme of throwing gold coins in the river bed at Khadanyar was devised during this period by Er. Suya. And thereby, divers cleared the way. This was the first ever attempt of manual dredging carried out after allowing gushing waters by breaching the several artificial dams created across the alignment of the river.
  • During 10th century AD in the era of Raja Parth Warma (923-934 AD), floods washed away houses in the city; and dead bodies floated in Jhelum. Paddy fields destroyed causing famine.
  • In the era of Raja Harash Dev (1103-1114 AD) during 12th century AD, floods damaged all crops causing famines. People bought food stuffs by the weight of gold.
  • In the reign of Sultan Shahab-ud-Din (1360-1378 AD) during 14th century AD, floods damaged 20,000 houses in Srinagar, Sonawari and other low-lying areas
  • During 16th century AD in the era of Ali Shah Chak (1570-1579 AD), whole valley got inundated. All agricultural land was submerged. Landslides took place. Hundreds of houses got damaged. And, famine continued for three years.
  • In the era of Ibrahim Khan (1678-1686 AD) during 17th century AD, a continuous rains for one month caused devastating floods. Houses were washed away which floated on water like boats with inmates weeping and wailing. All the bridges gave way. Agriculture land and cattle were washed away. This was known as Tughyan-i-behad—that is, floods without borders. The areas that escaped floods were shaken by earthquakes, killing hundreds of people. Thousands of houses collapsed.
  • During 18th century AD in the era of Nawazish Khan (1709-1710 AD), torrential rainfall and winds caused floods resulting in great damage to agriculture and buildings. After this, a devastating fire broke out in Mohalla Malchimar in Safakadal, which destroyed twenty adjacent Mohallas and 40,000 houses in them.
  • Again in the era of Afrasiab Khan (1746-1748 AD), rains caused floods. It damaged crops. River overflowed its banks. Thousands of houses got damaged in the city. People died of starvation. The dead bodies could not be handled; shrouds were rare. Dead bodies would be wrapped in grass and thrown into river, which contaminated the water. About one third population perished. Others fled valley; and the rest stayed back to face the famine.
  • In the era of Amir Khan (1771-1772 AD), floods hit the valley which also washed away his Diwan Khanaalong with plenty of agricultural land and all bridges. After the floods, Sher Garhi was rebuilt with strong walls and grand buildings.
  • During 19th century in the era of Shaikh Ghulam Mohi-ud-Din (in 1841 AD), Jhelum overflowed its banks due to incessant rains. There was a breach of Qazizad bund and water entered Srinagar. Maximum damage took place in Rainawari and Khanyar areas. All bridges from Fatehkadal to Sumbal were washed away.
  • In the era of Maharaja Partap Singh during 20th century AD, a continuous rainfall for 59 hours on July 24, 1903, resulted in overflowing of Jhelum. All the low lying areas of the city were flooded. People saved their lives by rushing to higher areas. Houses and cattle got washed away. Many people died because of drowning.
  • In 1959 AD in the era of Bakhshi Ghulam Mohammad, flood known as FORD damaged crops and property.
  • Now in recent September 2014 floods, everybody witnessed death very closely; their property perished before their very eyes. Within seven months this has been followed by another flood in March 2015 giving sleepless nights to many besides causing landslides.

Here allow me to quote views expressed by an expert on dredging (Mechanical Engineer) on the floods of Sept. 14, I quote:-

“Scars of September 2014 are still fresh, “we are yet to wake up to the mess that Kashmir has faced since 879 AD, when Khadanyar Mountains slipped and choked the outfall channel leading to massive blockage. Other major recorded floods are in the years 1841 followed by one on the July 18, 1893. “Mother of floods” was recorded on July 23, 1903, which by far had a major impact on the ecology and environment of Kashmir. 1948, 1950, 1957, July 1959 and 1992 have also caused extensive damage, making us to ponder on environmental impact and assessment studies,” (Ref: Sir Walter Roper, Valley of Kashmir).

Actions taken in past

“Initiating corrective measures, successive governments tried to explore options which bore results in 1960, through supply of Ellicott dredger purchased by Port of Vishakhapatnam. The Mechanical CS dredgers were utilized for dredging of outflow channel from Ningli to Sheeri, however, abandoned in 1986 due to lack of support. In 90’s dredging from Janbazpora to Johama was commenced resulting in minimal desired volumetric efficiency of the basin. In April 2012, dredging was restarted from Ningli to Gantamula under the previous regime, which didn’t exhibit any impressive volumetric impact as levels of Jhelum sore during the moderate June 2015 rainfall, refuting the government’s claim of dredging 1.4 million cubic meters of silt.”

“The September floods have proven beyond doubt the callous attitude of authorities in understanding the problems prior to augmenting solutions. On a closer look at Google images of the river path between March 18, 2010 and November 22, 2014, one apprehends a major flood in the near future if corrective actions are not initiated on a war footing. Silt deposition can be seen all along the path from Khanabal, Sangam to Srinagar and in the event of an angry Jhelum. Pampore area including most of Srinagar’s Municipal areas are under immense threat as silt will be easily transported along the river bed slope due to high water velocity. The change in the water color denotes the excessive silt observed with expansion in the river width which rings alarming bells.”

Recent tender for dredging of Jhelum

“I am amused to read the tender documents: Tender notice no 17 of 2015-16 where to my knowledge several techno commercial errors have been committed in the tender stage. I have the following observations:

         Dredger types: Trailer Suction Dredgers ( TSHD) can carry only fine silt or gravel but surely cannot handle the slurry silt due to high viscosity unless added with sand, they are mostly coastal built and cannot be transported to J&K unless someone has a custom built dredger which can be assembled on site. In my opinion the excavator barges could be a better option as silt, rocks, and sand could be dredged in combination with the CSD.

         I am utterly disappointed by the tender requirements that do not mention any technical bid submittal along with the commercial bid based on which the bidder will be approved. It more or less shows IFC is unaware of the procedures in dredging which require submittal of a detailed method statement, equipment list and qualified manpower to ensure the contractor is not experimenting while people suffer.

         Method of calculation of the dredged material pre-dredge and post-dredge is unclear. I wonder if the quantity of volume 10.7 Lakh CM is already exaggerated in the absence of a bathymetric survey.

         Duration: I believe the IFC Department has still not woken up and are probably not aware of equipment’s and their capacities. They still believe dredging about 150 cum/day would be a great challenge which can be monitored by their Chief Engineer. Discharge distance of over 300 and 3000 m and its implications on discharge output does not mean much of a difference to the IFC and the technical consultant appointed for the project, which proves beyond doubt they are all first timers and in experiment mode.

         Silt transfer: Page 31 of the tender document describes siltation prevention using various “Mickey Mouse Techniques”. I hope the consultant knows how a silt curtain is used for silt retention.

         Priority of documents on Page 61, it amuses me to see the document precedence which is neither as per FIDIC Green or Red book. I can assure the government and general masses that the contractor will have his say in the project and we will again have a blame game plan in place.” (The results are vivid within the first month only, when the snag in the deployed dredge could not be removed by the company since last over a month and the machine is lying idle since then. The firm should have been bound by a severe penalty for every hour of delay as it involves risk of life of people in view of imminent floods at any time.)

What needs to be done?

“I hate to agree that it is an uphill task to get the project executed on war footing keeping various negative factors including unpredictable weather conditions, governmental bottlenecks, level of expertise in managing and supervising such critical projects, availability of competent manpower, equipment resource and above all a positive cash flow to finance the project.”

“In order to start the work the following actions could be considered by the authorities:

         Soil investigation along with a detailed bathymetric survey needs to be conducted to ascertain the water absorption capacity type of soil and depths of the river bed at various locations with Geo coordinates.

         A comprehensive plan for segment dredging needs to be prioritized in order to ensure the right combination of marine equipment at the right location as the present operating dredgers are below capacity and exhibit low efficiency as has been proved by their poor performance over the years of operation. The dredger capacities shall further reduce due to presence of gravel, rocks, boulders in the silt and above all inexperienced operations staff which reduces the output.

         The outflow channels in the line of Wullar intake need to be dredged to create laminar flow to the lake. Long boom excavators on spud barges would be the most appropriate solution.

         Expansion areas with higher depths need to be created every 30-50 Kms to create temporary retention basins thereby increasing the volumetric capacity of the river. Revetments and scour protection on the left and the right of the river bed would arrest any erosion. Hence protect the banks in case of a heavy downpour. Underwater geo textile tubes would also be a quick and commercially economical solution.

         Floods spill channels controlling Srinagar city need to be excavated/dredged (where applicable) by at least 5 meters in the vertical plane and 10 meters in the horizontal plane on both sides, which could accommodate additional 20–25 percent of the overflow.

         The wetlands and the natural flow routes from the Dal to Aanchar and Mansbal need to be attended on priority as siltation in Dal has reduced the intake capacity by more than 60 percent.

         The authorities having established a control room are not aware of the fury of floods and the velocity of water when the depth of river bed is minimized due to silt transfer. I have pointed out several times in the past that sand bags can be an option only at laminar locations, with flood fury in serpent profile of Jhelum these sand bags can easily flow and can block the flow and decrease the level of the river bed. The only possible option would be to put interwoven precast panels to allow greater bonding due to weight while protecting the river bunds.

I am of the opinion, that apart from the removal of encroachments and rehabilitation of the existing dwellers, the subject requires in depth and strong technical background that can guide the government towards a win-win situation.”

In order to implement, I suggest the government to:

         “Make single regulatory body for wetlands, waterways and lakes for effective control and co-ordination.

         Constitute an expert panel of people with a minimum 10 years’ experience of dredging and marine projects. First timers as contractors/consultants can be as disastrous as the floods themselves.

         Fix timeframe for each segment dredging controlled and monitored by the expert team based on Primavera software. The total volumes for dredging should be monitored based on available equipment rather than the fancies of the authorities who have no feelings for general masses.

   Explore options for in house equipment design, fabrication, modification and commissioning for dredging and other marine works.

      Set up a training institute for imparting technical training for future dredging and marine projects.

Lot can be achieved with the cooperation of government and society subject to a set out guideline which is managed by professionally competent members rather than the keypad commandoes of social media.” Enquote.

 

A write up of mine appeared in GK dated October,13, 2014, “Sequel to Flood protection in the vale of Kashmir”, where I had also quoted the article http://amlok.in/web/flood-protection in the vale of Kashmir by –Joseph Thomas/comments. In this photographs and videos of the types of proposed dredgers have been shown in action.

Regarding sediment load, I may quote another expert engineer on the subject:

“Sediment built up in Jhelum and Wular post 2014 floods have reduced the hydraulic regime flow carrying capacity…even a short spells of normal rains can thus result in flash floods above flood danger levels and the temporary restored embankments can give away to inundate areas..

The propositions of dredging project needs to be uploaded online with progress updated frequently..To my knowledge the sediment transport data for Jhelum if observed has not been so far used to prepare a sediment transport model that could form the basis of formulating a holistic dredging project both for “maintenance dredging” and “contingent dredging” things need to be transparent…

Normal spells of spring rains have thus become cause of concern for people and rightly so.” unquote.

 

We are told that dredging of Jhelum river is going to increase the carrying capacity of river from 35,000 to 45,000 cusecs and that of FS Channel from 5,000 to 10,000 cusecs, thereby still leaving a shortfall of 65,000 cusecs against the maximum recorded flood discharge of 1,20,000 cusecs in September, 14. Thus the need for the construction of a parallel river persists to avoid a future catastrophe. Unfortunately this project is reported to have been refused to be financed by the Central Government.

The Obstacle is The Way

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The Obstacle is The Way: The ancient art of turning adversity into advantage Ryan Holiday 224 pages; Average reading time 2 hours 9 min This bookbhook summary will take not more than 7 minutes “Our actions may be impeded…but there can be no impeding our intentions or dispositions. Because we can accommodate and adapt. The mind adapts and converts to its own purposes the obstacle to our acting. The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” In the year 170, Marcus Aurelius, emperor of the Roman Empire, penned these words that have become the cornerstone of the art of tackling adversity to triumph. Obstacles may be unique to each of us, but their responses can be clubbed in common buckets (Fear, frustration, confusion, helplessness, depression & anger) with one dominant action: doing nothing. However some amongst us are able to translate this response of fear or confusion into action and turn the obstacles into rocket fuel. Marcus Aurelius’ words are not about “being positive” but about being opportunistic about the obstacles so as to move forward. Converting obstacles into a launching pad is essentially a discipline of three things: 1. Perception (How we look at our problems in an objective manner) a. Recognise your power: As Shakespeare said “Nothing (is) either good or bad, thinking makes it so.” The power to perceive a situation as positive or negative is within you. This does not mean that we hallucinate wearing rose tinted glasses that there is no problem, when there is a problem. This is about looking at the obstacle without clouding with emotions. The power to evaluate the problem in terms of what is up to us and what is not up to us makes the difference. If someone has decided not fund your new start-up, that isn’t up to you. But the power to improve your pitch lies with you and is up to you. b. Practice objectivity: Impression and perception are, to an extent, cause and effect. Impression is objective “this happened” while perception is subjective “and it’s bad thing that happened.” The ability to see everything objectively require discipline and the mind needs to be trained to do that. There is a simpler definition for this ability-the art of not panicking. When NASA sent John Glen into space, he orbited the earth for a day in spaceship the size of a mini car, and his heart rate stayed under 100 BPM all through. You are going into space for the first time, NASA till then, had never sent a man into space-so many things that can go wrong, and yet Glen was calm all through. How? Extensive training. Before the launch, NASA recreated the process for the astronauts hundreds of times, testing every step, introducing all possible variables that could go wrong. The uncertainty and fear around a first-ever process (sending an American to space) was removed by training. The mind of Glen and his colleague astronauts were trained to remove uncertainty and bring objectivity. c. Find the opportunity: Once you have controlled your emotions and perceived the situation objectively, the next step is to train the mind to look at the opportunity within the obstacle. During World War II, the German blitzkrieg rushed into Poland, Belgium and France with little opposition from the Allies. The Allies were at complete loss till General Eisenhower saw the opportunity within the problem-that the Germans were carrying destruction of the blitzkrieg within themselves. Each blitzkrieg would send thousands of Germans into a “meat grinder” zone, following which the Allies would attack them from the sides and the rear. The success of the Germans’ penetration became a problem for Allies and the Allies found an opportunity within the problem, when they realised they could lock the Germans inside a “meat grinder” zone by surrounding them from the sides and the rear. d. Our life is not about World War II. Yet in our day to day challenges & problems, the mind needs to look at the opportunity within the obstacle. Overcoming fear and doubt to emerge stronger is known as adversarial growth. For a lot of us, the fact that “it has not been done before” brings a sense of fear and inaction. To the entrepreneur, the fact that it has not been done before is the opportunity to start-up. 2. Action (The ability to break down the obstacle into opportunities) a. Disciplined and persistent action: There is a difference between action and right action. Right action has elements of thoughtfulness, courage and persistence. When you face a problem, you either give in or you give it your all. Demosthenes was not born as the greatest orator of Athens. He became one. Demosthenes was born frail and with a speech impediment. He lost his father at seven, and his inheritance was swindled by relatives. To overcome his speech impediment, he would practise speaking with his mouth full of pebbles. He would narrate speeches while running up a steep incline. Eventually, he emerged as one of the strongest orators of his time. He then filed litigation against his relatives who had wronged him, and argued for himself in the court to win the case. We are all skilled and knowledgeable. And we believe those strengths will compensate for persistence or the need to slog. That is a mistake. In 1878, Edison was not the only inventor experimenting with incandescent light bulb. But he was the only one who tested 6000 filaments made of different materials! And we know he was capable and knowledgeable as well, so were his peers. Edison’s persistence to test 6000 filaments outlasted his peers’ intelligence and patience. Persist and resist is the maxim to imbibe. b. Do your job right: Do you often think “This is just a job, it isn’t who I am, it doesn’t matter”? The reality is that everything we do matters-from clearing the garbage to studying for a professional degree. We owe it to ourselves and the world to do every job well. Remember that story where Steve Jobs learnt from his father to finish the back of cabinets as well as the front? That discipline to do the job well irrespective of whether it is a cabinet or the iPhone is the essence of Steve Jobs’ design philosophy. c. The flexibility of pragmatism: Steve Jobs was a perfectionist, but he was also pragmatic. The first iPhone shipped without the copy-and-paste feature. How could a revolutionary phone not have something as basic as the copyand-paste? But Steve knew that he could get the feature in the next version and what was more important was to launch the iPhone within the timeline promised. Steve Jobs was a radical pragmatist-immensely ambitious and yet guided by the possible. What stops you from being a radical pragmatist? Progress is better than perfection. d. The opportunity within obstacles: Marcus Aurelius’ core message is “What stands in the way becomes the way.” When Gandhi marched to the ocean to make salt, he flipped the obstacle of the might of British Empire into an advantage-the British knew that arresting Gandhi would lead to intensifying the struggle for India’s independence, and not arresting him would mean that British laws could be broken by anyone. In our daily lives, we get consumed by the ambition for the next promotion, the next pay hike-assuming wrongly that moving forward is the only way to progress. And when the forward movement gets stalled, we put more energy into the same thing, finally accumulating frustration. We then complain that we do not get enough opportunities. Believing that the road ahead can be paved sideways or even by taking a few steps back requires humility. The humility to accept that “I cannot get it the traditional way, but so what?” 3. Will (Build the inner discipline to accept what we cannot change and change what we can) a. Perception & action require discipline of mind and body. Will is the playground of heart and soul. While both perception and discipline have dependence on others and the outside world, will is totally and completely in your control. You may make the effort to change the perception about you in your boss’ eyes, but the final perception still rests with your boss. However, when you decide to run 5 km in three weeks, given that you have never run, everything is in your control and within your will. On one hand, will is about accepting what you cannot change, when you flip this over- will is also about changing what you can change. b. Will is not inherent. It is not something we are born with. It needs to be built, just like a muscle is built. Building up will is like building an inner citadel-a fortress inside us that no one can break. Theodore Roosevelt built such an inner citadel in his childhood years when he was weak and frail. His father helped a smart but frail 12 year old Theodore become stronger, overcome his asthma and prepare for life ahead, during which he would lead his country in times of global turmoil. One evening, 67 years old Thomas Edison got the news that his research & development complex had caught fire. By the time Edison reached the complex, the fire had engulfed the premises. Edison asked his son “Go get your mother and her friends. They’ll never see a fire like this again.” He did not cry or get angry or quit. He knew that for those moments, there was nothing in his control. However, next morning he told a reporter that he wasn’t too old to make a start. Within a month, Edison’s laboratory was back to working two shifts a day. We don’t get to choose what happens to us, but we can always choose how we feel about it. c. There is a German word Sitzfleisch which means “staying power.” Obstacles are not a one-off event. They can come back, again and again. The will is about building perseverance-the ability to persist against obstacles in the long run. William Churchill described perseverance in an easy to understand acronym-KBO (Keep Buggering On). In our technologically advanced world, it is easy to believe that nothing and no one can defeat us. Your problems become the biggest problems, your life becomes the most unfair, you are the unluckiest person. This is myopia of believing that you are the centre of the world. The Romans had two words for such people-Memento moriRemember you are mortal. Being aware of our mortality is not depressing, it creates an objective perspective and a sense of urgency. Nassim Nicholas Taleb defined a Stoic as “(who) transforms fear into prudence, pain into transformation, mistakes into initiation and desire into undertaking.” And the philosophy of turning an obstacle into opportunity is ironically not about thought alone but about a combination of perception, action and will. The story of Rubin “Hurricane” Carter Rubin Carter, when he was the height of his boxing career, was convicted for triple homicide and sentenced to three life sentences. Rubin believed that he had not committed the crime. When he entered the prison, Rubin told the warden that he was not giving up the last thing he controlled-his own self. He said,“ I know you had nothing to do with the injustice that brought me to this jail, so I’m willing to stay here until I get out. But I will not, under any circumstances, be treated like a prisoner-because I am not and never will be powerless.” He was angry about the injustice meted out but he refused to rage or despair. He refused to eat prison food, wear uniform or accept visitors. Carter spent all his prison time on his legal case and he was determined to leave the prison a free and innocent man, but also a better and improved human being. It took 19 years and two trials to overturn the original verdict and when Carter walked out of the prison, he just went back to regular life. He did not ask for apology from the court or sue for damages because he felt doing so would mean that the world had taken something from Carter which he wanted back. But he had never given up himself, so there was no question of apology or damages. Carter believed, “This can’t harm me-I might not have wanted it to happen, but I decide how it will affect me. No one else has the right.” As Marcus Aurelius said in 170, “The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” Buy this book from: 1. Flipkart 2. Amazon

Nature Makes us happier and kinder too.

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We Know Nature Makes Us Happier. Now Science Says It Makes Us Kinder Too

New studies show being in nature may increase your willingness to be generous, trusting, and helpful toward others.
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This article was originally published in Greater Good.

I’ve been an avid hiker my whole life. From the time I first strapped on a backpack and headed into the Sierra Nevada Mountains, I was hooked on the experience, loving the way being in nature cleared my mind and helped me to feel more grounded and peaceful.

Nature has a profound impact on our brains and our behavior.

But, even though I’ve always believed that hiking in nature had many psychological benefits, I’ve never had much science to back me up … until now, that is. Scientists are beginning to find evidence that being in nature has a profound impact on our brains and our behavior, helping us to reduce anxiety, brooding, and stress, and to increase our attention capacity, creativity, and ability to connect with other people.

“People have been discussing their profound experiences in nature for the last several hundred years—from Thoreau to John Muir to many other writers,” says researcher David Strayer, of the University of Utah. “Now we are seeing changes in the brain and changes in the body that suggest we are physically and mentally more healthy when we are interacting with nature.”

While he and other scientists may believe nature benefits our well-being, we live in a society where people spend more and more time indoors and online—especially children. Findings on how nature improves our brains bring added legitimacy to the call for preserving natural spaces—both urban and wild—and for spending more time in nature in order to lead healthier, happier, and more creative lives.

Here are some of the ways that science is showing how being in nature affects our brains and bodies.

1. Being in nature decreases stress

It’s clear that hiking—and any physical activity—can reduce stress and anxiety. But, there’s something about being in nature that may augment those impacts.

In one recent experiment conducted in Japan, participants were assigned to walk either in a forest or in an urban center (taking walks of equal length and difficulty) while having their heart rate variability, heart rate, and blood pressure measured. The participants also filled out questionnaires about their moods, stress levels, and other psychological measures.

Results showed that those who walked in forests had significantly lower heart rates and higher heart rate variability (indicating more relaxation and less stress) and reported better moods and less anxiety than those who walked in urban settings. The researchers concluded that there’s something about being in nature that had a beneficial effect on stress reduction, above and beyond what exercise alone might have produced.

We evolved to be more relaxed in natural spaces.

In another study, researchers in Finland found that urban dwellers who strolled for as little as 20 minutes through an urban park or woodland reported significantly more stress relief than those who strolled in a city center.

The reasons for this effect are unclear, but scientists believe that we evolved to be more relaxed in natural spaces. In a now-classic laboratory experiment by Roger Ulrich of Texas A&M University and colleagues, participants who first viewed a stress-inducing movie and were then exposed to color/sound videotapes depicting natural scenes showed much quicker, more complete recovery from stress than those who’d been exposed to videos of urban settings.

These studies and others provide evidence that being in natural spaces—or even just looking out of a window onto a natural scene—somehow soothes us and relieves stress.

2. Nature makes you happier and less brooding

I’ve always found that hiking in nature makes me feel happier, and of course decreased stress may be a big part of the reason why. But, Gregory Bratman, of Stanford University, has found evidence that nature may impact our mood in other ways, too.

In one 2015 study, he and his colleagues randomly assigned 60 participants to a 50-minute walk in either a natural setting (oak woodlands) or an urban setting (along a four-lane road). Before and after the walk, the participants were assessed on their emotional state and on cognitive measures, such as how well they could perform tasks requiring short-term memory. Results showed that those who walked in nature experienced less anxiety, rumination (focused attention on negative aspects of oneself), and negative affect, as well as more positive emotions, in comparison to the urban walkers. They also improved their performance on the memory tasks.

Nature may have important impacts on mood.

In another study, he and his colleaguesextended these findings by zeroing in on how walking in nature affects rumination—which has been associated with the onset of depression and anxiety—while also using fMRI technology to look at brain activity. Participants who took a 90-minute walk in either a natural setting or an urban setting had their brains scanned before and after their walks and were surveyed on self-reported rumination levels (as well as other psychological markers). The researchers controlled for many potential factors that might influence rumination or brain activity—for example, physical exertion levels as measured by heart rates and pulmonary functions.

Participants who walked in a natural setting versus an urban setting reported decreased rumination after the walk, and they showed increased activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain whose deactivation is affiliated with depression and anxiety—a finding that suggests nature may have important impacts on mood.

Bratman believes results like these need to reach city planners and others whose policies impact our natural spaces. “Ecosystem services are being incorporated into decision making at all levels of public policy, land use planning, and urban design, and it’s very important to be sure to incorporate empirical findings from psychology into these decisions,” he says.

3. Nature relieves attention fatigue and increases creativity

Today, we live with ubiquitous technology designed to constantly pull at our attention. But many scientists believe our brains were not made for this kind of information bombardment, and that it can lead to mental fatigue, overwhelm, and burnout, requiring “attention restoration” to get back to a normal, healthy state.

Strayer is one of those researchers. He believes that being in nature restores depleted attention circuits, which can then help us be more open to creativity and problem-solving.

“When you use your cell phone to talk, text, shoot photos, or whatever else you can do with your cell phone, you’re tapping the prefrontal cortex and causing reductions in cognitive resources,” he says.

In a 2012 study, he and his colleagues showed that hikers on a four-day backpacking trip could solve significantly more puzzles requiring creativity when compared to a control group of people waiting to take the same hike—in fact, 47 percent more. Although other factors may account for his results—for example, the exercise or the camaraderie of being out together—prior studies have suggested that nature itself may play an important role. One in Psychological Science found that the impact of nature on attention restoration is what accounted for improved scores on cognitive tests for the study participants.

This phenomenon may be due to differences in brain activation when viewing natural scenes versus more built-up scenes—even for those who normally live in an urban environment. In a recent study conducted by Peter Aspinall at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, and colleagues, participants who had their brains monitored continuously using mobile electroencephalogram (EEG) while they walked through an urban green space had EEG readings indicating lower frustration, engagement, and arousal, and higher meditation levels while in the green area, and higher engagement levels when moving out of the green area. This lower engagement and arousal may be what allows for attention restoration, encouraging a more open, meditative mindset.

Being in nature restores depleted attention circuits.

It’s this kind of brain activity—sometimes referred to as “the brain default network”—that is tied to creative thinking, says Strayer. He is currently repeating his earlier 2012 study with a new group of hikers and recording their EEG activity and salivary cortisol levels before, during, and after a three-day hike. Early analyses of EEG readings support the theory that hiking in nature seems to rest people’s attention networks and to engage their default networks.

Strayer and colleagues are also specifically looking at the effects of technology by monitoring people’s EEG readings while they walk in an arboretum, either while talking on their cell phone or not. So far, they’ve found that participants with cell phones appear to have EEG readings consistent with attention overload, and can recall only half as many details of the arboretum they just passed through, compared to those who were not on a cell phone.

Though Strayer’s findings are preliminary, they are consistent with other people’s findings on the importance of nature to attention restoration and creativity.

“If you’ve been using your brain to multitask—as most of us do most of the day—and then you set that aside and go on a walk, without all of the gadgets, you’ve let the prefrontal cortex recover,” says Strayer. “And that’s when we see these bursts in creativity, problem-solving, and feelings of well-being.”

4. Nature may help you to be kind and generous

Whenever I go to places like Yosemite or Big Sur, on the coast of California, I seem to return to my home life ready to be more kind and generous to those around me—just ask my husband and kids! Now some new studies may shed light on why that is.

In a series of experiments published in 2014, Juyoung Lee, GGSC director Dacher Keltner, and other researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, studied the potential impact of nature on the willingness to be generous, trusting, and helpful toward others, while considering what factors might influence that relationship.

As part of their study, the researchers exposed participants to more or less subjectively beautiful nature scenes (whose beauty levels were rated independently) and then observed how participants behaved playing two economics games—the Dictator Game and the Trust Game—that measure generosity and trust, respectively. After being exposed to the more beautiful nature scenes, participants acted more generously and with more trust in the games than those who saw less beautiful scenes, and the effects appeared to be due to corresponding increases in positive emotion.

I seem to return to my home life ready to be more kind and generous.

In another part of the study, the researchers asked people to fill out a survey about their emotions while sitting at a table where more or less beautiful plants were placed. Afterwards, the participants were told that the experiment was over and they could leave, but that if they wanted to they could volunteer to make paper cranes for a relief effort program in Japan. The number of cranes they made (or didn’t make) was used as a measure of their “prosociality” or willingness to help.

Results showed that the presence of more beautiful plants significantly increased the number of cranes made by participants, and that this increase was, again, mediated by positive emotion elicited by natural beauty. The researchers concluded that experiencing the beauty of nature increases positive emotion—perhaps by inspiring awe, a feeling akin to wonder, with the sense of being part of something bigger than oneself—which then leads to prosocial behaviors.

Support for this theory comes from an experiment conducted by Paul Piff of the University of California, Irvine, and colleagues, in which participants staring up at a grove of very tall trees for as little as one minute experienced measurable increases in awe, and demonstrated more helpful behavior and approached moral dilemmas more ethically, than participants who spent the same amount of time looking up at a high building.

5. Nature makes you “feel more alive”

With all of these benefits to being out in nature, it’s probably no surprise that something about nature makes us feel more alive and vital. Being outdoors gives us energy, makes us happier, helps us to relieve the everyday stresses of our overscheduled lives, opens the door to creativity, and helps us to be kind to others.

No one knows if there is an ideal amount of nature exposure, though Strayer says that longtime backpackers suggest a minimum of three days to really unplug from our everyday lives. Nor can anyone say for sure how nature compares to other forms of stress relief or attention restoration, such as sleep or meditation. Both Strayer and Bratman say we need a lot more careful research to tease out these effects before we come to any definitive conclusions.

Still, the research does suggest there’s something about nature that keeps us psychologically healthy, and that’s good to know … especially since nature is a resource that’s free and that many of us can access by just walking outside the door. Results like these should encourage us as a society to consider more carefully how we preserve our wilderness spaces and our urban parks.

Something about nature makes us feel more alive and vital.

And while the research may not be conclusive, Strayer is optimistic that science will eventually catch up to what people like me have intuited all along—that there’s something about nature that renews us, allowing us to feel better, to think better, and to deepen our understanding of ourselves and others.

“You can’t have centuries of people writing about this and not have something going on,” says Strayer. “If you are constantly on a device or in front of a screen, you’re missing out on something that’s pretty spectacular: the real world.”

Nallah Mar Development Project (Facts and Figures)

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Nallah Mar Development Project (Facts and Figures)

On 28th June 1971 Nallah Mar Project construction was inaugurated, when G.M.Sadiq was the Chie Minister and Pirzada Gulam Nabi was the Chief Engineer Irrigation & Flood Control Department. In his welcome address, the Chief Engineer described the project as a landmark in the annals of this historic City and a step to elevate the standards of public health and hygiene.

The waterways of Srinagar – once famed for their splendor and beauty, which prompted travelers and visitors of the City to bestow upon it the title of “Venice of the East”- had become the principal cross that the then planners had to bear. Among the problems that confronted and impeded the progress and development of the City, the pride of place surely went to the Nallah Mar – originally designed as an artery of communication between the Dal Lake and the River Jhelum but later turned to a featuring open drain, traversing the most congested and densely populated parts of the City.

The Nallah Mar was constructed on the approximate pattern of the Venetian Grand Canal by the legendary Budshah (Sultan zain-ul-Abidin) (1422-1474 AD), the leitmotif of whose reign was an upsurge in welfare works. It derived its flow from Dal Lake and not only linked the lake with the river but also irrigated sizeable tracts of agricultural land at the terminus. As the City expanded and grew, the resultant shift in the centers of activity led to the diminution in the importance of the navigation function of the channel, process which was accentuated by the introduction and fast pace of development of motorized transport. The more urgent problem of flood control dominated the stage in the forties and fifties and measures, which deprived the Nallah of its water, were implemented. The deterioration that set in finally concluded in disuse and the Nallah offered itself as the most convenient place for the dumping of garbage, disposal of raw sewage and sullage and encroachment to the habitation on either side, which like the rest of the City has no public sewerage disposal system. The ultimate result was the creation of a health hazard of formidable proportions in the shape of an open repository of every kind imaginable.

Re-activation of the Nallah and its restoration to its original position as a Navigation and Irrigation Channel having been considered and found to be hydraulically and economically infeasible, the options narrowed down to:-

  1. Conversion of the Nallah into a Storm Water Drain by large scale pumping at its off-take.
  2. Filling up of the Nallah to convert it into an avenue with a sewer underneath.

The annual recurring costs, past experience and the almost petrified state of sludge existent in the Nallah worked decisively against the adoption of the first alternative. Conferences, meetings and consultations, in which technical experts no longer in active service participated, yielded unanimous proposal i.e. the utilization of the Nallah as a trunk sewer overlaid by a Road.

As is wont with such projects, the establishment of the cardinal frame of reference catalyzed thinking on a wider plane and in an enlarged dimension. The re-developmental possibilities of the areas on either side of the Nallah could at once be visualized. Apart from beautification, ease of circulation in communication and regulation and zoning in consonance with principles of Urban Planning, it became increasingly clear that the dovetailing of the scheme for elimination of the health hazard and that for reconstruction would go a long way towards making the entire proposition financially remunerative.

In its essentials, the scheme proposed comprised of:-

  1. Construction of a 15,000 feet trunk sewer of precast cement concrete pipes from Andh Masjid to Guzarbal, catering to a population of about one lac and eighty thousand (inclusive of probable increments for the next thirty years). The part of the City which this population inhabits is bounded by the Dal Lake, Tsunti Kuhl, River Jhelum and Anchar Lake in the East, South West and North respectively and constitutes a distinct independent zone for sewerage and sewage disposal. This proposal would not, therefore conflict or interfere with the scheme for the sewerage and sewage disposal of the City as a whole. In fact the sewer would be an unalienable part of the overall scheme.
  2. A system of branch sewers to be initially laid in streets and roads having adequate widths to permit such installation and ultimately in others as they are improved under the Master Plan.
  3. Filling up of the Nallah, with earth to be obtained from Flood Spill Channel, up to Road formation level (ranging from 5-15 ft.)
  4. Construction of a 2.5 miles long Road over the filling with an overall width of 80 ft. (later modified to 64 ft), comprising dual carriageway 24 ft. each (later modified to 20 ft. each) divided by a central strip 8ft (later modified to 4 ft.) in width (underneath which the sewer shall be aligned) and flanked by sidewalks of 12 ft. (later modified to10 ft.) width.
  5. Provision of pipe drains, with manholes, on either side of the road for disposal of storm water.
  6. Acquisition of 40 ft. wide additional strip of land along the road for construction of shops and residential flats.
  7. Construction of
  8. Three storeyed shop-cum-flat blocks 177 ft.x 25 ft, each with a service road 15 ft. at the rear.
  9. Eighty no. shops in two markets situated at traditionally commercial locations ( later modified to 5 blocks shop-cum-flats 57 x 47 ft each.)
  • Two Super Bazars in close vicinity to the markets at (ii) above (later modified to 26 no. shops 26 x 25 ft.)
  1. Single storeyed shops 751 nos.
  2. Transit camps 8 blocks each of 10 units

The total No. of shops shall be about 1,536, their size at the front  and the rear being  11ft x 14 ft and 11 ft, x 9ft. each respectively. (later deleted)

The residential flats shall be of three categories :

  • Single room flats with kitchen and bathroom. -(later deleted)
  • 2 Room flats with kitchen and bathroom. -(later deleted)
  • 3 Room flats with kitchen and bathroom.-(later deleted)

The existing width of the Nallah ranged from 33 ft. to 40 ft. only and in the enlargement to 120 ft. necessitated by the above proposals, acquisition of 390 houses and about 70 acres of land was involved.

The total investment on the entire scheme was estimated to be Rs. 535.87 lacs. The execution of the project was envisaged to be phased over a period of four years in consideration of the availability of materials, working conditions, organizational capacity of the Department concerned and the time consumed in procedure for acquisition.

In a write-up appeared in Kashmir Ink posted by Arif Shafi Wani, it is now after about four decades, questions arise in  the minds of people as:

Why did we fill up Nallah Mar?What persuaded the then state government to turn the glorious, historic stream into a road? Was it an environmental need? Was it politics? Or was it the bureaucratic greed?

It is said that the Nallah Mar waterway crisscrossed through the Old City, served as navigational route and major outflow channel of Dal lake for centuries together. Its waters originated from Dachigam rakh and after accumulating in the Harwan reservoir moved through another canal up to Shalimar and Nishat.

Starting from Brari Nambal lagoon, Nallah Mar flowed into Khushalsar, Gilsar lakes via Eidgah and joined Anchar lake. Its other artery flowed through Noor Bagh into the river Jhelum.

Noted historian Fida Hasnain said in 14th century, Budshah closed down three peripheries of Brari Nambal and a new canal was dug from Baba Demb to Aanchar lake.

“The canal bed was tiled with flat stones at places with bricks so that the canal remained clean and water flows smooth. Budshah dug the canal to regulate water level of Dal and save people from floods. The waterway also facilitated the Dal dwellers to sell vegetable and streamline the water transport system in the old city. Later he connected the canal with new city Nowshera,” Hasnain said.

Muhammad Aziz Tuman, a houseboat owner is quoted to have said that Nallah Mar was favourite haunt of foreign tourists. “We used to ferry foreign tourists in Doongas through Nallah Mar to Ganderbal and Wular lake. Tourists were so mesmerized by cleanliness of the Nallah Mar that they referred it as Venice of Kashmir. They used to buy traditional handicrafts in markets located on both sides of the Nallah Mar and get abreast with our rich culture,” Tuman said.

“The great Mar Canal for its translucent waters, glazed tile basin and rows of garden-roof house had made many European travelers call my city as Venice of the East,” recounts noted columnist ZG Muhammad.

Turning nostalgic, ZG said, “I have rich memories about every bridge over the Nallah Mar…..The Naid Kadal, the Bohur Kadal, the Saraf Kadal, the Qa’ed Kadal and Raazay Kadal.” He narrates the scenes in wee morning hours on the busy banks of the canal with boats filled to capacity with fresh vegetables and barges loaded with green fodder for cattle and brawny laborers unloading stones and bricks from massive boats.

“I vividly remember when we used to go on school excursion in Dongas- in wee morning hours gathered on couple of finely chiseled lime stone ghats on the Nallah Mar to embark upon boats – the famous one was Salam Peerun Yarabal – named after a high ranking official of Maharaja Hari Singh’s Government.  This ghat was on the confluence of the sparkling blue lagoon- Brari Nambal, there were many other ghats also,” he said.

“On day’s long excursion to Dal Lake, Qamar-Sahib’s Astana in Ganderbal, families used to embark on boats at various ghats of a couple of mile long Mar Canal that vivisected the City of Sultans of Kashmir- now known as Shahr-i-Khas. There used to be lots of fish in the Mar canal- I remember, we used to fish in and around Salam Peer-un-Yarbal between Naid Kadal and Khanyar.”

Noted poet Zarief Ahmad Zarief recounts the grandeur of Nallah Mar. “The canal was not just a waterway but part of our culture,” he said.

“I remember Kashmiri Pandits with devotion used to go in shikaras through Nallah Mar to pay obeisance at Kheer Bhawani temple. Muslims used to travel in Doongas to the revered shrine of Qamar Sahib (RA) in Ganderbal. On its deck, they used to display sheep with different colours for offering at the shrine.”

With animated eyes, Zarief remembers how as a child he used to travel with his friends on the Nallah Mar bridges —Nowpora, Saraf Kadal, Kralyar, Naidyar, Narwara Kadal, Ranger Kadal, Dumbe Kadal, Kaw Dar Kadal, Bohri Kadal, Kaid Kadal, Rajouri Kadal and Pachi Kadal.

Samuel Bourne, a highly-acclaimed colonial photographer had taken a photograph in 1860s, showing the ‘Marqual Canal’ (Nallah Mar) in Srinagar. The photograph is among 30,000 collections of British Library’s online gallery. “Natural lakes, canals and narrow lanes winding amongst old timber houses typify the city’s fabric. It was a favourite of the Mughal emperors as a cool and refreshing alternative to the plains of North India where they held their government. They planted beautiful gardens with stepped terraces and flowing watercourses. The Emperor Jehangir (reigned 1605-1627) said of the area, ‘If there is a heaven on earth, it is here, it is here, it is here,” the caption of the photograph reads.

 

Abdul Salam Sheikh, then vice-chairman Srinagar Development Authority (SDA) replied as:

 Who facilitated filling of Nallah Mar?

When I took over as VC SDA, the filling of Nallah Mar had started under the then secretary Housing and VC SDA, Peerzada Ghulam Nabi, a very competent engineer Kashmir has produced

There are allegations that Nallah Mar was filled up for political reasons to quell voices of dissent in Shaher-e-Khaas?

This is not true. Filling up Nallah Mar had nothing to do with politics. Nallah Mar was a running channel pre-1947. As a youth, I used to meet my relations there and I have seen small boats carrying vegetables passing through it. It is not all of a sudden that somebody dumped soil to stop flow of the channel. We have to understand that Nallah Mar was governed by water level of Dal lake. Unfortunately, water level in Dal got depleted which affected the flow in Nallah Mar. Gradually, Nallah Mar was rendered defunct and turned into a garbage dump. It had become a health hazard as people were suffering from number of diseases due to the putrid smell emanating from it.

Why Government failed to revive it?

People living near Nallah Mar wanted to revive it. There were two options with the Government, to fill or activate it. But restoration was not possible at that time from engineering point of view because of low flow of water from Dal.

The water flow near the navigational gate of Dal used to be so fast that it was difficult for shikaras to negotiate it. Actually, there has been drastic decrease in inflow of waters into Dal from catchments through Dachigam and Telbal nallah due to depletion of glaciers.

Harwan reservoir from which water was supplied to Srinagar city remained dry. Water from Dal has to be pumped into the reservoir for supply. Situation was getting worse and only option left was to fill Nallah Mar.

The condition of Nallah Mar was so bad that after returning home from the site, I used to remove all my clothes and take a bath.

 During your tenure, Government started construction of colonies on Nallah Mar embankments and shelved laying pipes beneath the canal to allow water circulation? What were the reasons for it?

Government had raised a loan of Rs 60 lakh from Housing Board of Government of India which provided that after the filling, there will be housing colonies on both sides of the Nallah Mar. But the colonies did not prove economical as a result Sheikh Sahib (then Chief Minister) said government was unnecessarily paying interest and decided to return the money to the housing board. Only one or two buildings were constructed at Baba Demb and they are still there.

We tried to put a permanent drain and embed some pipes there, but because of financial constraint, it could not be done. But side drains were provided and those are still functional.  Kashmir has got good engineers and they can give suggestions to restore the canal but it is impossible now.

As a Kashmiri do you have any regrets regarding filling of Nallah Mar?

Government had no option but to fill it. But everything has two sides. It has become a boon that a road goes through heart of the city, otherwise there would have been traffic mess. And it provided employment to hundreds of people who have shops on both sides on Nallahmar road.

Ajaz Rasool, hydraulic engineer atated as:

Nallah Mar drained waters from Brari Numbal lagoon which in turn was connected to Dal Lake, to Khushal Sar and finally to Anchar Lake and Jhelum. The main function of the canal was primarily to function as a navigation channel and subsequently draining the excess waters from Dal Lake to Anchar Lake and Jhelum.

The built up residential houses of Srinagar City were located on either bank of the Mar Canal. Many bridges across Mar Canal provided access to its two shore line areas in the congested city habitat.

The man made canal thus formed a hydrological feature of Srinagar City which regulated excess flow of Dal lake by draining it to Anchar Lake and Jhelum  besides also being a feature of inland transportation system for boats.

But by mid-seventies the canal became a receptacle for the waste water, sewage and solid waste from its adjoining congested populated area due to which foul conditions were often witnessed during summers when the decomposition of waste would give foul smell. The residents living on its banks would thus prefer keeping the windows of their houses opening towards the Mar Canal shut to keep away the bad odours. The once clean flowing Mar Canal thus became a cesspool and a health hazard.

With the development of road network, the inland water transportation lost its importance. So a Circular Road Project was envisaged and implemented by the State Government through its Public Works Department. Under the aegis of this Project, one of the features adopted was to convert the Mar Canal into an arterial four lane Road by filling up the canal.

The Project was implemented and in order to keep the outflow of this canal intact a major pipe drain was envisaged to be provided and laid underground in the median strip of proposed road. In fact, the said large pipe drain was laid for about an approximate length of a kilometre or so but then abandoned for reasons not known. As a consequence of this, the out-flow from Brari Numbal got choked. This issue became controversial and often debated in the society with voices raised to restore the outflow.

In order to offset the ecological consequences that got set in due to the choking of hydraulic outflow as a consequence of construction of Nallah Mar Road, the Government constructed an underground RCC Cut and Cover Conduit in the Dal Lake Conservation Project in mid nineties which connects the Brari Numbal with River Jhelum at Fatel Kadal and affords a designed gravity flow of 250 cusecs from Lagoon to the River for 40 percent of time in a year depending on the available Dal Lake water levels. However in case of River Jhelum flowing higher than the Lake level, as in floods, the conduit flow is to be shut through control gates to prevent the high River Flows entering the Brari Nambal lagoon.

The Nallah Mar Road, on the other hand, opened up the vistas of business in the congested city habitat by providing good road connectivity and improved the economic conditions in the area.

The fact remains that the construction of Mar Canal in the first instance as well construction of Nallah Mar Road subsequently both remain to be the man-made incursions rather than natural features of city topography and both have in some way or the other affected the ecology of Srinagar City.

My personal experience:

So far as I remember I have witnessed that whenever water taps would go dry, people used to carry water from Nallah Mar for drinking/washing purposes. There used to be lot of duck weed, which used to be carried for feeding ducks at homes. We used to board doongas at And Masjid for going on school excursions and return late at night de-boarding at the same place. Fresh vegetables got from Dal Lake would be available in the shikaras every morning at Bohri Kadal. Foreign tourists would make paintings of the stone arch bridges of Naid Kadal, Bohri Kadal and Saraf Kadal etc. As children we would also take bath in Nallah Mar. But at the same time, I too have been witness to the death of the Nallah, when it got turned in to an open drain catering sewage from adjoining drains, besides regular dumping of solid wastes, causing obnoxious smell. People around ran a campaign to fill up the area to relieve them of the environmental disaster. Even the sloping banks on either side of the Nallah were encroached upon by extending their structures raised on wooden posts and dropping sewage and sullage directly into the Nallah. Perhaps the authorities were left with no alternative other than filling it. But unfortunately the laying of the proposed 4 ft. dia trunk sewer was abpndoned beyond Bohri Kadal onwards for unknown reasons. Perhaps people lost patience due to long time taken in construction of manholes and they preferred speedy filling up of the Nallah. The other reason put forth is financial constraint and shelving of the laying of trunk sewer through the central verge in future time, which never matured.