Shabir Ibn Noor
Most of the old buildings on the left and right of Nallah Mar Road are still telling the story of old Srinagar, which we also know as Shahar-e-Khas. In the past, the structure of all buildings or houses in the city of Srinagar was exactly like the houses built on the banks of rivers. They had a mud roof with a variety of flowering plants on it. Paper was pasted on latticed windows so that the cold would not enter. Most of the houses built on the banks of the rivers used to stand on poles because of the high incidence of flooding.
There was a network of canals between Dal Lake and the city of Srinagar. These canals provided natural drainage from the city to the Dal Lake. Srinagar, the city of gardens, is now a forest of concrete. With the modern buildings all around, it feels there is no place to breathe.
In the thirteenth century, the great king of Kashmir, Sultan Zainal Abidin (Budshah), built the canal in the middle of the city of Srinagar, which later became known as Mar. The circulating water of Nallah Nar provided water to the people for centuries. The water of Nallah Mar used to flow from Dachhi Gam and then from Harwan reservoir to another canal in Shalimar and Nishat. The Budshah closed three streams of Brari Nambal and dug a new canal which ran from Baba Demb to Anchar and he paved the canal with flat stones and laid bricks in places so that the water of the canal would be clean and its flow would be smooth. For centuries, Nallah Mar protected the city from floods. It also made it easier for those who lived in the Dal Lake to easily sell their vegetables through the canal and run their businesses along it. It was also a regular system of transportation.
Environmentalists say the extinction of the canal has caused problems with Dal Lake’s water flow, which has led to stagnant lake water and increased weeds. In the late 1960s, foreign tourists used to go to Ganderbal and Wullar Lake in dongas (large boats) through the Nallah Mar. Impressed by the cleanliness and beauty of the canal, the tourists called Kashmir the city of eastern canals (Venice of the East). On both sides of Nallah Mar were Kashmiri handicraft shops where tourists used to shop with enthusiasm. Unfortunately, Nalla Mar has been buried alive and we have lost our precious heritage.
What has happened in the name of tourism and modern development in Kashmir is the loss of heritage, civilisation, culture and environment. It would not be out of place to say that the government is also responsible for vandalism of Kashmir’s heritage.