Popularly known as Kaaj Naag, this famous spring provides water to streams like Mawar, Hamal, Vijj, Talar and Pohru rivers
Rafiabad is a beautiful place in north Kashmir’s Baramulla district with serene locales, lush green forests and a tranquil ambience. Its topography is divided into two belts: upper and lower belts. The lower belt is densely populated with many orchards. The upper belt starts from Dangiwacha onwards and is surrounded by beautiful mountain peaks clad with snow throughout the year. One such famous peak is Kazinag Peak at an elevation of 3847 meters (12,621 ft) from sea level. This peak is located some 42 kilometres from Dangiwacha town and forms part of the Line of Control between Pakistan and India.
On top (right side) of this historic peak stands the historic Kazinag spring, popularly known as Kaaj Naag which provides water to the streams like Mawar, Hamal, Vijj, and Talar and Pohru rivers. It usually remains snow-clad throughout the year. Geographically, this spring is located in the Tehsil Langate of District Kupwara, J&K and is home to Markhor, an endangered species of mountain goat. It usually remains snow-clad throughout the year. The climate of the area is sub-Mediterranean and receives heavy snowfall during the winter season. In snowy months, the surrounding Kazinag area remains cut off from the tehsil headquarters with no basic necessities of life such bijli, pani and sadak. The inhabitants here mostly depend on forests for timber, wood, food, fodder etc. Being a mountainous region, only 13% of the geographical area i.e., 196704 hectares is cultivable land around this spring; of which about 92% of the area is rain-fed. Approximately 87% of households have very small land holdings of between one and two acres. Maize and wheat are the major crops cultivated in the region, along with a diversity of vegetables and fruits.
The spring of Kazinag has Bijhama towards its left side and Handwara towards its right. On the front side of it lies the famous picnic spot of Mundajji from which this spring is a 9 to 10-hour journey on foot. And in the milieu of the spring is Lipper Valley from which away at 20 kilometres distance is Pakistan.
Lachipora Wildlife Sanctuary, Limber Wildlife Sanctuary and Naganadi Conservation Reserve, etc together form Kazinag National Park which has been named after this famous spring. This national park is situated on the north bank of river Jhelum close to LOC in Baramulla about 70 kilometres away from the capital city of Srinagar.
As far as the vegetation around Kazinag Spring is concerned, it is dominated by coniferous forests with deodar (Cedrus Deodara) at lower altitudes, fir (abies pindrow) and spruce (Picea Smithiana) at middle to upper elevations and kail (Pinus Wallichiana) is widely distributed from lower to upper elevations. Birch (Betula Utilis) occur mainly in the sub-alpine zone whereas the other broad-leaved forests include Prunus-Acer which occur in middle elevations and the Horse chestnut (Aesculus Indica) strands are distributed in lower elevations mainly along streams. The temperate scrub occurs at middle and lower elevations and is dominated by Indigofera, Spirea and Rosa. The sub-alpine and alpine scrub occurs at higher elevations and is dominated by Juniperus, Lonicera and salix. Alpine meadows occupy the highest elevations. Other shrub species Rosa macrofolia and Viburnum grandiflorum are dominant along nallas in lower elevations.
The whole population of Gujjar and Bakerwals living in the Kazinag range is dependent on forest resources as it experiences heavy snowfall with a harsh winter season. This lifestyle and housing of these people is wholly and solely dependent on forests. Cedar and pine are preferred by locals because of their durability in the area.
It merits a mention here that in the higher altitudes, firewood is not available easily and is collected from the temperate and sub-alpine forests. At present, the consumption of firewood is higher and some of the preferred species are rhododendrons, etc. Free grazing during summer and fodder harvesting before the onset of cold winter to feed livestock is a common practice around this famous spring. Trees like willows, oak, and Aesculus are harvested to feed livestock during winter months when the area remains clad with heavy snowfall.
In the conclusion of this newspaper article, I’d like to mention that the administration of both the districts i.e. Baramulla & Kupwara need to come up with a strategy in collaboration with TERI (The Energy and Resource Institute, J&K) for the sustainable conservation of this precious natural resource by protecting forest cover around it; restricting Bakerwal community form grazing their cattle or sheep near the spring and polluting it by washing their cattle vis-à-vis the strict implementation of forest conservation Act 1980, so that the water scarcity is not faced by people down the line in Rafiabad and Qaziabad areas.
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