Once upon a Time - The Story of Nallah Mar

Ever since it was filled up in the seventies, Nallah Mar has flowed in our collective sub-conscious: We are barely aware of it in our routine discourse. But intermittently, it surges to the surface, into our consciousness. And we reflect about it and about our neglect of our environment and its systematic brutalization over the decades.

Nallah Mar has become an emblem, a reference point in this narrative –  our stream of consciousness to tell our story of unconcern for the natural beauty of our state to ourselves.   The question remains the same. Why did we bury the magnificent stream? The explanations we know. But they have never sufficed to answer the questions.

For it is beyond one’s imagination that any government would turn a splendid, historic stream like Nallah Mar passing through a capital city into an ugly road. And the inhabitants of the city would countenance it. It would require a singular lack of aesthetics on the part of the both to agree on it.

It would require the lack of even a basic appreciation of the importance of Nallah Mar: what it is to have a stream like that. Nobody seemed to care. Nobody protested the decision. No civil society member, no bureaucrat, no politician stood up and stuck his neck out.  In fact, as our cover story for this month reveals, the regret and nostalgia for the stream came as an afterthought – long after Nallah Mar had been done away with.

In our story we go back to the people who were either associated with or have witnessed the operation led by the Public Works Department to build a Circular Road project along the serpentine path Nallah Mar once took.

The arguments are identical to what we are wont to hear: that the stream had been turned into a cesspool for want of dredging which left no other option but to fill it up. The story also has accounts of the people who have walked the banks of Nallah Mar and give a picture of a beautiful city which has been a locus of western romantic dreams.  But in the process, the story reveals what is veritably the biggest environmental scandal of modern Kashmir.

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