Nallah Mar, a stream that once was

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By : Shabir Ibn Noor

Once upon a time, there used to be a beautiful canal, which ran through the middle of the Shahr-e-Khas, the old city of Srinagar. But today what exists at its place is a double-tube metalled road, the Nallah Mar road. Indeed the transformation of a canal into a road is one of the worst engineering and environmental blunders this place has been witness to.

Even today if we look at the structure of some of the old buildings or houses in the city of Srinagar, particularly those standing along the Nallah Mar road, they still bear witness that they were built on the banks of the river. A mud roof with a variety of flowers on it, the lattice windows with paper pasted on it so as to ward off winter cold … most of these houses stand on poles, a evidence of the high incidence of flooding here!

The Nallah Mar road may be a major and a vital traffic artery today, but its replacing a canal has actually caused some irreparable damage to some of the major water-bodies of the city, including the famed Dal Lake. Filling the spiral like canal, which also provided natural drainage to the city, was such a mistake whose cost has been overly whooping if one is to calculate only the amounts that are now being spent of conservation and preservation of Dal Lake. Now add to it the other costs end of this canal has exacted from the Kashmir economy and city environment – the enormity of the blunder becomes still more clear.

In ‘The Valley of Kashmir’, Sir Walter Lawrence writes that the water of Lake Dal is so clear and transparent that those who cannot afford clean drinking water drink Gagribal basin’s water. In the thirteenth century, the great king of Kashmir, Sultan Zainal Abidin, also affectionately known as Budshah, had built the canal in the middle of the city of Srinagar, which later came to be known as Mar. Initially, Nallah Mar began from Brari Nambal lagoon and had two diversions. One passed through Eidgah into Khushalsar, Gilsar, and finally emptied into Anchar Lake. Other passed through Noor Bagh into River Jehlum.

Budshah closed three streams of Brari Nambal and dug a new canal which ran from Baba Dam to Anchar. He also paved the canal with flat stones and laid bricks in places so that the water of the canal would be clean and its flow smooth. For centuries, Nallah Mar regularly protected the people from floods by regulating level of different water-bodies it connected. It also served as important transportation route within the city.

Many bridges were also laid over the Mar including Nowpora Kadal, Naid Kadal, Bohri Kadal, Saraf Kadal, Qadi Kadal, Rajouri Kadal, Kawdaer Kadal or Pacha Kadal, Dumb Kadal, Narwar (Buti) Kadal.

Many historians say that the Nallah Mar lost its existence to the political rivalry between the ruling government and its political adversary within the city (between Sher and Bakra), resulting in Kashmir losing an important heritage.

(The writer can be mailed at: [email protected])

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