By Tasir Khan
SRINAGAR: Padshahi kul one of the oldest sources of irrigation and drinking water to the summer capital is now losing its trail in the Srinagar’s suburban area of Nagabal, Pandach, Ahamd Nagar and Zukura where it is fast vanishing due to urbanisation.
The 16 km long canal, according to locals, was dug during the times of Sultan Zain-ul-Abideen for providing water to the Srinagar city.
The canal which has now become the only source of irrigation for the adjoining areas of Nunar, Badergund, Verpacsh, Malsahaibagh, Pandach, Gulabagh, Ahmad Nagar and even the major parts of Elahibagh through various channels.
The farming community here is upset as this canal has now been blocked due to encroachments.
“By conversion of agricultural land into residential, all the irrigation channels have been blocked, and there is a need to clear these blockages,” said Gulam Mohi-u-din, a farmer from Ahmad Nagar.
He said due to scarcity of water, farmers are either converting paddy fields into orchards or forced to sell their land.
Echoing the similar views, the local committee head of Ahmad Nagar, Abdul Ahad Parray said this canal was once a life line for suburban areas of Buchpora, Zukura , Awantabhawn, Nowshera, then through Srinagar it merges with river Jhelum, but due to fast encroachment and urbanisation its trails have vanished.
“It has not only disappeared in the areas where new settlements have come up but also at places where agriculture is still practiced,” he said.
A retired professor in history, Ghulam Mohammad Zarger, said that he has read about this canal in Mridu Rai’s Book “Hindu Rulers Muslim Subjects” in which she has mentioned about this vital and oldest canal reaching the Srinagar Grand mosque being diverted by Maharaja to irrigate fields around Nowshera.
“Sultan Zanul Abdeen Budshah who had constructed it from Nalla Sindh in Ganderbal, connected it with city, where it used to join Nallahmar, a Jhelum tributary, and it was used for both irrigation and drinking purposes,” Zargar said.
He said this is not just an issue of blockage of irrigation channels but also the conversion of agricultural land into commercial and residential purposes, which has reduced the farm practice to a great level.
“If government does not take any action immediately, time is not far when there would be no agricultural land left,” said Mushtaq Ahmad, a farmer.
The farmers blame the unchecked construction of residential and commercial buildings on agricultural is the main reason of blockage of these irrigation channels that hit the areas like, Pandach, Gulabagh, Ahmad Nagar and Buchpora.
“Agricultural activity is soon to pickup and authorities should send teams to clear the channels as early as it would be possible, any delay will hit crop prospects,” Umer Jan, a farmer said.
He said the course of these canals need to be relocated and cleared to mitigate flooding that occur in various colonies that block the course of water particularly in Zukura, Malabagh and Awantibhawn.
When contacted, Assistant Executive Engineer, Irrigation and Flood Control Department Ganderbal Gulam Ahmad Tantray said the department has taken action against constructions on agricultural land which has blocked Padshahi canal in areas of Pandach, Ahmad Nagar and many have been booked under Section 133A of Land Revenue Act.”
“We maintain a vigil on any such encroachments and once there are complaints we take action,” he said.
He said every year they carry repairing of this canal during winters when the water level remains low. He appealed public residing in these areas not sell agricultural land as it will endanger their source of living.