Srinagar: The main river of the Kashmir valley, which was once known for its pristine and abundant water, is now clinging to merely the vestiges of its former purity. The water quality of the Jhelum is rapidly deteriorating despite its self-purifying capacity, and not much emphasis is being laid on its cleaning or on mitigating its decline.
Starting from the Verinag Spring in the south-eastern part of the Valley and making its way towards Pakistan, the Jhelum experiences huge challenges in the urban channels of Srinagar.
According to Shakil Ahmad Romshoo, Head of the Earth Sciences Department, University of Kashmir, “Urbanisation’ is the fountainhead of the contamination of water resources. Since the era of urbanisation, Kashmir Valley has not yet developed a proper system for sewage treatment, and it lacks a systematic solid and liquid waste disposal strategy. This results in the direction of sewage waste and liquid waste into the rivers. The drastic population increase in the state demands a perfect sewerage management plan.” Nonetheless, he believes that it is not only the government that should be held to account, but the locals should have a “sense of responsibility” in keeping the city and its resources safe and clean.
An official from the State Pollution Control Board said that the water quality of the river in the city has fallen under the Class C category, which means it has to be conventionally treated before consumption. He also stated that if there is no action taken to mitigate the harm done to the river, even the conventional treatment would not be possible to make the water potable in the near future.
The river Jhelum, with 24 tributaries flowing into it, has no Sewage Treatment Plant (STP), unlike the Dal Lake.
“The city has six STPs with 53.6 million-litres-daily capacity, but none is connected to the Jhelum river. The drainage systems of a number of households and hotels are now linked to the STPs, but the rest are directly or indirectly channeled into the rivers and lakes,” the official said.
Houseboats for tourism purposes also contribute to the river’s deteriorating quality; their increase and continuity may also pose a threat to the river’s health as sewage and liquid waste are directly released into the water body. It is possible to realign latrines and kitchen pipelines and bring them into a proper sewerage system, the official observed. However, although the Srinagar Municipal Corporation has laid out a plan for proper sewage treatment, it is yet to be implemented, he noted.
Kashmir Reader sought to speak to locals regarding their contribution to the contamination of the lake. A young man, who lives on the river’s banks and responded on condition of anonymity, lamented, saying, “There are no dustbins in the colonies, and no one from the municipality comes to collect the garbage either. We residents have no other choice but to throw garbage into the water bodies.” He said that the houses are built in such a congested fashion that it is impossible to have septic tanks and soakage pits.