By Saqib ur Rehman
Springs located in the land of springs (Anantnag J&K) are on the verge of extinction. Once these springs attracted tourists and their water was used for drinking and other purposes.
“The three-storied house you see here before its construction there was a bubbling spring at its place the water of which was used for drinking, bathing and other purposes. When I was a child I used to come here early in the morning washed my face, drank water from that spring. The fresh and sheen water of that spring and the chirping of birds in the trees surrounding that spring make me nostalgic.” said an octogenarian local of Islamabad, Abdul Ahad Dar.
Islamabad, also called Anantnag, is one of the oldest districts of Jammu and Kashmir, is located in south Kashmir- about 53 km’s from Srinagar. There are numerous springs in Anantnag and that is why it is also known as the Land of springs. The most famous spring is Verinag located at the foot hills of Pir-Panjal Range and has the distinction of being the origin of the River Jhelum. The proper town of Anantnag was blessed with a number of springs of whom only a few are surviving such as Nag Bal, Gageh Nag, Malakh Nag, Salak Nag and so on
According to recent research by Ghulam Jeelani, an environmentalist, most of the springs of Kashmir valley are concentrated in Anantnag. Once attracting tourists from far off places with its curative waters, the springs of this South Kashmir town are losing their pristine glory day after day. Most of them lie choked and are dying.
“I remember the days of my childhood when people used the water of these springs for various household purposes particularly for drinking but those days are gone now these springs are now polluted, my only request to the present government is that these springs are our heritage and government must play its part to keep this heritage alive.” said a local of Islamabad, Gowhar Ali Bhat.
The downtown area of Anantnag is bestowed with some famous springs. What makes them unique and famous is not only the scenic view around them, and their cool water but it is Sulphur, which is naturally present in their water, that makes them unique. The most famous spring, among these few sulphuric springs is known as Malakh Nag. This spring is rich in minerals and is believed to have curative properties and is considered to be highly useful in treating skin ailments. People from far off places come to have a dip in this spring. But unfortunately even the condition of this spring is deteriorating by the day. “As you see my shop is in front of Malakh nag and I have been here for years together. Gone are the days when locals and even people outside the state used to come here to take a bath in this spring but now hardly anyone visits because of the negligence of the government towards the deteriorating condition of this spring”, said a local, Gulam Rasool.
The question is who is responsible for the extinction and pollution of these springs? When I talked a social Analyst, Abdul Rehman Mir about this, he said, “Anantnag was once known for its bubbling and gushing springs but unfortunately a large number of springs are extinct and some of the remaining ones are on the verge of extinction. Now whom shall we hold responsible for all this. Perhaps you may be thinking that government is the only culprit; nay both the government and the people are equally responsible for it. No doubt the government is not paying much attention to restore the lost glory of these springs but the people are driving the last nail into the coffin of these water resources. People have encroached upon these springs and by filling them up and have raised magnificent constructions on them. It is high time for both the government and the people especially the people of Anantnag to come forward for the safety of this valuable gift of God. The government should enact a law that can prevent the greedy and selfish hands from destroying and from encroaching upon these precious water resources so that we are able to pass on this divine blessing to our future generations. Otherwise, the days are not far off when these springs will become a history”.
There cannot be two opinions on this that water is one of the basic needs of humans and other living beings for their survival, but with an increase in population and expansion of cities, towns and even those of villages, and the encroachment of water resources by selfish people , the days are not far off when people will have to face a serious water crises unless, some immediate, innovative and constructive steps are taken to save these water resources. “There was a large number of springs in this town( Anantnag) but, Ah!, we have lost many of them. One of those lost springs is “Har Nag”, said a contemporary Historian, Professor Shad.
When I talked to the Executive officer Municipal Council Islamabad (Anantnag), Mr. Shabir Ahmad Wani and asked what he was doing to save these precious springs, he said, “we have made a comprehensive plan to save these springs from every type of damage caused to them. We often try to keep them clean and wherever we feel there is a need of boundary walling for any spring we do that”.
Although, the authorities claim to have restored the original beauty of many of these springs but it is not visible on the ground. Many of them have dried up long ago and lie buried under concrete structures and roads and there are some who are on the verge of extinction. The water of these springs, once known for its mineral properties, was the main attraction of tourists who used to come to bathe and collect water for the curing of various skin ailments. However, presently, the same sulphur rich waters have turned harmful for human consumption and do not even qualify to be used for washing purposes. Once abuzz with locals and tourists, now hardly any person visits them because they have lost that attraction which they possessed. How unfortunate it is that the spring at the foot of the hill (known as Anesh Teep) located in the east of Anantnag town, which only a few years back abounded in fish is now almost decrepit.
The famous Mughal prince Darashukoh had built a raised floor beside this spring for prayers. People used to bath in the cool water of the spring and then offer prayers on the raised floor called Masjid-e-Darashukoh. Located in a public park known as ‘Sheer Bagh’ , this spring is waiting for some messiah to restore its lost grandeur and pristine glory. Although the government has started the restoration work of this garden but the work needs to be expedited. There was a time when tourists on their way to Pahalgam didn’t lose a chance to visit this famous spring and garden.
It is, therefore, high time for the government, NGO’s, and locals to come together for the restoration of these springs for future generations. With every extinct spring, we are losing a page of history of our glorious past.
After listening to the opinions of people from different walks of life regarding the deteriorating condition of the remaining springs in Anantnag, I came to the conclusion that it is not any particular person who is to be blamed for it but the blame lies on all of us. Therefore, in order to restore the lost glory of these springs, we all have to co-operate with one another and the present government must take effective measures in this regard so that neither any selfish person nor any miscreant can ever think of causing the slightest damage to them.
The author is a Post graduate in Journalism and mass communication from the Islamic university of Science and Technology, Awantipora. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org